(BlackDoctor.org) — 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.