Bizarre Health Symptoms…Explained

doctor wearing white coat( — Strange aches? You’re seeing something funny? Do you swear your hair actually hurts sometimes? What does it all mean?

Experts agree that most little physically oddities are nothing to worry about, but it’s still a good idea to understand what’s probably going on…and how to tell if the issue is a serious one.

You Sometimes Get a Painful Swelling Under Your Arm

Why: It could be due to a plugged hair follicle or an ingrown hair in your armpit (from shaving, for example) or a swollen lymph node (from an infection).

The solution: Try putting a warm compress on it several times a day and see if it goes away within a week, says Teng.

See a doctor: If it lasts longer or if it worsens (and gets red or irritated). “It could be a sign of a breast infection, a cyst, or a tumor,” says Teng.

You See Spots Floating By

Why: Those little white specks that drift across your field of vision are probably just tiny pieces of tissue that stray into the vitreous, the jelly-filled chamber of each eye, says Ruth D. Williams, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The solution: Your eye will probably reabsorb them (or you’ll just stop noticing them).

See a doctor: If those specs are black or are accompanied by flashing lights, which can signal a retinal tear.

You Always Sneeze in Threes (or Fours, or Fives)

Why: “Sneezing is a protective reflex,” says Nathanael Horne, a physician in New York City. “There’s something irritating in the nasal passages, and your nose wants to get rid of it.” So you’ll sneeze until the job gets done.

The solution: Sneeze! Once, twice, or four or more times—all are perfectly normal.

You Get Light-Headed When You Stand Up Quickly

Why: You could be mildly dehydrated. Or you might have orthostatic hypotension (a.k.a. postural hypotension), which occurs when blood rushes to your feet and away from your head as you stand up suddenly. (People with low blood pressure can be especially prone to this phenomenon.)

The solution: Drink plenty of fluids and be sure that when you stand up, you do it slowly, says Donnica Moore, a physician in Far Hills, New Jersey. If you see stars anyway, grab a table or a chair to stabilize yourself or sit back down.

See a doctor: If the light-headedness persists.

You Hear Ringing in Your Ears

Why: It’s probably tinnitus, a perceived buzzing or whooshing sound commonly caused by partial hearing loss, says Cristina Cabrera-Muffly, an otolaryngologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Medications, including aspirin and some antibiotics; allergies; and earwax buildup can be to blame.

The solution: There’s no cure for tinnitus caused by hearing loss, but “stress-reduction techniques, such as biofeedback, may be useful to decrease your brain’s perception of the sound,” says Cabrera-Muffly.

See a doctor: If the ringing is only in one ear or is accompanied by vertigo, balance problems, or facial weakness. These symptoms could indicate an acoustic-nerve tumor.

Your Foot Goes Numb During A Workout

Why: When you move your feet in a repetitive way during a workout, or if your shoes or laces are too tight, the “tiny nerves between your toes can get pinched as you put pressure on your foot,” says Sabrina Strickland, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York City, and that can make it feel uncomfortably numb.

The solution: During your workout, wiggle your toes in your shoes a few times—and loosen your laces if they’re too tight.

See a doctor: If numbness happens during other activities or you can’t make it go away. You could have a nerve problem in your foot.

Your Hands Get Sweaty in Certain Situations

Why: Sweaty palms happen to everyone now and then, and they’re a normal response to stress or a case of the jitters.

The solution: Taking a few minutes to try to relax—by breathing deeply, meditating, or visualizing a tranquil place—may help prevent or relieve the sweatiness, says Teng.

See a doctor: If your hands are constantly sweaty. You could have hyperhidrosis, a disorder involving excessive sweating of the hands, feet, or underarms. Applying an antiperspirant on the palms can treat the condition, says Roshini Raj, an assistant professor of medicine at New York University and the author of What the Yuck?! The Freaky & Fabulous Truth About Your Body. So can a medication prescribed by your doctor. In very serious cases, surgery can remove the part of the nerve that’s stimulating the sweat glands to become overactive.

You Get Muscle Cramps at Night

Why: A subtle electrolyte imbalance (involving potassium, magnesium, or calcium) or mild dehydration may be triggering these cramps, says Teng.

The solution: Get up and walk around, then massage the muscle to help it relax.

See a doctor: If you get them nightly or during the day when you walk. A condition such as a blood-clotting disorder or nerve damage could be to blame.

Your Body Jerks as You Fall Asleep

Why: These hypnic jerks, or sleep starts, probably stem from nerves misfiring as your brain and body downshift into sleep mode. “An interruption in your brain’s signal to your body to relax can cause the limbs and head to jerk,” says Clete A. Kushida, M.D., the medical director of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, in Redwood City, California.

The solution: There’s nothing you can do to prevent these harmless jerks. Fortunately, they last only a few seconds.

See a doctor: If they happen frequently or disturb your sleep, as they might be a sign of sleep apnea or periodic limb movement disorder.


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5 Popular Health Myths: Fiction Vs. Fact


( — Warm milk will help you sleep, right? Don’t sit so close to that TV screen if you want to save your eyes, right? Not necessarily.

In their new book, Don’t Cross Your Eyes…They’ll Get Stuck That Way, Aaron Carroll, MD, and Rachel Vreeman, MD, both from the Indiana University School of Medicine, use science to dispel health myths that have been passed down through generations.

Here are the surprising tales and truths about popular health habits:

Use Hand Dryers Instead Of Paper Towels

Dryer or paper towel? It’s a confounding daily dilemma. Molecular biologist Keith Redway, of the University of Westminster, has done a series of experiments to put an end to the debate. He found that jet dryers actually increase the amount of bacteria on users’ hands because the air inside the machines is far from sterile. The driers make the restroom dirtier, too, spewing germs more than six feet. Redway named paper towels the winner.

Use Hydrogen Peroxide To Clean Injuries

You know the fizzing that happens when the liquid touches your wound? It’s the sound of the chemical attacking germs, yes, and also your own cells. A study in The Journal of Trauma found that H 2 O 2 inhibits fibroblasts—a type of cell involved in tissue formation—thereby slowing the healing process. The authors recommend washing your cuts gently with soap and water, then dabbing on a topical antibiotic.

If Your Mucus Turns Green, You Need To Take Antibiotics

Congratulations, nose-blowing sleuths! This adage is partially true: When you have an infection, your body sends white blood cells called neutrophils to fight the germs, and when an enzyme in the neutrophils mixes with the healthy cells in your nose, your mucus changes color. The falsehood is that you need antibiotics. The infection in your body is not necessarily bacterial; it could be viral—in which case, no amount of antibiotics will help.

Take Vitamin C To Prevent Colds

It’s true that if you don’t have enough C, you’ll get sick—but with scurvy, not a runny nose. Carroll and Vreeman hypothesize that this bug-fighting theory began when we discovered the vitamin’s link to that infamous sailors’ affliction, in 1932; if C could prevent one illness, the logic likely went, perhaps it could prevent others, too. But dozens of studies have found no difference in the number or duration of colds suffered by people who take C and those who don’t. What is the best way to stay cold-free? “Nothing beats hand washing,” Carroll says.

Drink Warm Milk To Help You Sleep

Even thousands of years ago, the Talmud associated drinking milk with sleep. Today there’s no scientific evidence that it has the slightest impact on drowsiness. Milk does contain the nap-inducing amino acid tryptophan, but only in trace amounts. Eggs and cheese have more, but even an egg and cheese sandwich won’t knock you out. (You’d probably have to eat seven of them, the authors speculate.) However, if a hot-milk nightcap seems to help you catch z’s, drink up. A little placebo effect never hurt anyone.

Sitting Too Close To The TV Will Hurt Your Eyes

When TVs first became popular in the 1950s, they emitted 100,000 times more radiation than they do today, so parents may have been smart to keep their kids away from the tube back then. But sitting too close to a modern set or computer screen won’t do any permanent damage to your eyes. The fuzzy vision and headaches that follow a long day at the office (or an I Love Lucy marathon) are symptoms of eyestrain—a temporary condition no different from the soreness you feel after a workout. Relieve the aching with light massage around your eyes.

Tilt Your Head Back To Stop A Nosebleed

You should tilt your head back to stop a nosebleed. This will keep your clothes, the couch, and the rug clean, but it’s terrible advice, because it directs blood down your throat, which can make you gag or throw up. Instead, doctors say that you should sit up, lean forward, and pinch your nose below the bony bridge to slow (and eventually stop) the bleeding.

Don’t Eat Fried Foods If You Want Clear Skin

Actually, several studies have failed to link a fatty diet to pimples. More sweet news: Unless you’re allergic to it, chocolate won’t lead to breakouts either.