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Your Health
Something happening in your body?
Scaly skin, a blotchy mole, a burning belly. They are all unpleasant things we experience from time to time...and usually ignore, but should we? A symptom is an indication something is happening in your body. This doesn't mean you are sick, it's simply an indication that a more serious illness could be approaching. If everyday ailments linger too long, check them out. Here are five symptoms worth watching.

Got a burning stomach?

Do you take an antacid after every meal and even in between meals? It could be a sign you have an ulcer. An ulcer is a break in the lining of the stomach or intestine. Most can be cured easily by seeing your physician. The doctor will require you to drink a chalky iodine mixture that outlines the gastrointestinal tract and will want an upper endoscopy, in which the doctor looks down the esophagus through a tiny telescope. Treatment: Antibiotics to help fight bacteria and a daily dose of a drug to reduce stomach acid.

Blood in your stool?

There are other reasons for blood in your stool, but each year, upwards of 150,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer. The best chance of beating colon cancer is catching it early. Common signs are fatigue, constipation alternating with frequent bowel movements, diarrhea or sudden weight loss. This can be accompanied by abdominal pain and rectal bleeding. Treatment: The cancerous area and surrounding lymph nodes are surgically removed and the remaining colon reconnected. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be needed. Note: There is a new test to screen for colon cancer that analyzes DNA from colon cells. Mayo Clinic researchers hope this stool test will help pinpoint those who need further attention.

Freezing? Exhausted? Constipated?

If you suffer from exhaustion, constipation, gain weight quickly, or have feet and hands that feel as though they are freezing when nobody else is cold, you may have a thyroid disorder. Doctors can easily misdiagnose thyroid symptoms because they are so vague. If the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, the condition that results is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms include a large range of symptoms such as dry skin, impaired memory and concentration, depression, a deepening voice, and rapid hair loss. Too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism. Its symptoms often include headaches, weight loss, a racing heart, muscle weakness and a bumpy thickening of the skin over the shins. Treatment: For an underactive thyroid, doctors prescribe a synthetic hormone to restore hormone levels. For an overactive thyroid, radioactive iodine helps reduce hormone levels. Depending on symptoms, a doctor may also prescribe Tapozole or Prophylthiouracil, which block thyroid production. In severe cases, treatment may include surgical removal of part of the gland. More information can be obtained from the Thyroid Society at (800) 849-7643.

Got a suspicious mole?

The tendency to develop atypical moles is inherited. If you have a family member who has had a malignant melanoma (skin cancer), you should have a skin examination along with your yearly physical. Danger signs include: One half of the mole doesn't match the other half, when the border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred or irregular, when the mole is not one color or has shades of red, tan, brown, black, white or blue. Finally, if the mole suddenly changes size, itches, bleeds or is larger than the eraser of a pencil, it should be checked immediately by a dermatologist. Treatment: If the mole looks like it could be early melanoma, the dermatologist will remove all or part of the mole for examination. If it is cancerous, the doctor will surgically remove it and suture the spot closed.

Scaly skin?

The term eczema describes a number of dry, irritable skin conditions. Symptoms include dry, itchy skin and rashes. Common characteristics of eczema include small hard bumps on the skin, thick, leathery feeling skin, inflammation of skin around the mouth or thick, dry scales on the skin. In some cases, the itchy feeling can be unbearable, causing the sufferer to scratch, beginning a nasty "itch-scratch" cycle that can lead to infection. Common irritants include soaps and detergents; perfumes and cosmetics; cigarette smoke; constant extremes of temperature and chlorine in public baths. Use fragrance-free washing powders and fabric-softeners. Treatment: Daily skin care is important. Consult a doctor for an ointment or emollient suitable for your condition. Apply a lubricant free of fragrance immediately after bathing. Wool or synthetic fibers are more likely to irritate the skin, cotton clothing and bedding will keep the skin cool and allow it to breathe.

July Digital Edition