After at least eleven years — a bachelor’s degree, medical school, and residency — a doctor becomes a detective of sorts. With enough knowledge, they’re able to assess a patient quickly to come up with a probable diagnosis. Their education offers them a slew of clues to look for. With their experience and assortment of diagnostic tests, they put all this information together to arrive at an accurate diagnosis of a patient’s condition.
The following are 10 health conditions that a doctor can spot simply by looking at you.
If you appear pale and weak, your doctor might suspect that you are anemic. Healthy red blood cells are what carry oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. Anemia occurs when you lack these red blood cells, which are also known as hemoglobin. The lack of oxygen and red blood cells can make you look sallow and pale. Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis through blood tests and a thorough physical exam.
9. Anxiety and Other Mental Health Conditions
Once you walk into a room, your doctor is already assessing your overall health. If you’re hunched over, shuffling your feet, and withdrawn, your doctor might suspect that you’re depressed. If you’re fidgety, tense, and easily distracted, the first condition your doctor might think of is anxiety. Your doctor also takes into account your eye contact when they’re speaking to you. Poor eye contact might be a sign of an emotional or mental health issue.
8. A Smoking Habit
You might be able to hide your smoking habit from your family, but it’s difficult to hide it from your doctor. Heavy smokers have physical signs that are red flags to a doctor. The first clue are your teeth and gums. Smokers often have unusually yellow teeth and inflamed gums due to the nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco. Their voice can have a hoarseness that’s impossible to hide. A smoker’s nails and fingers on their dominant hand can develop a yellow tinge from holding cigarettes. Even their face can give away their habit. Smokers can develop very fine lines around their lips due to the repetitive puckering motion from smoking. The most distinctive sign, however, is the scent of a smoker’s breath.
7. A Drug Addiction
A drug habit, just like smoking, is difficult to hide from a doctor. Specific signs of drug use can depend on the drug, but there are common indications that doctors often look for. Track marks can be hard to spot with an untrained eye, but doctors are always on the lookout due to the adverse health effects of drugs.
Drugs like methamphetamine can affect the skin significantly. Drug toxins can build up in the skin, causing it to look dry, uneven, thin, and scaly. Additionally, sores and blisters may develop. Because of a drug’s side effects, a drug user might pick at their skin without realizing it, leaving open wounds or multiple scabs. Weight loss, dry and brittle hair, and skin problems can all be signs of drug addiction.
6. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can show on a person’s face. Because hypertension increases the flow of blood throughout the body, the blood vessels get larger. This increase in blood vessel size, called vasodilation, causes a person’s face to look flushed. Hypertension can also break capillaries, causing pronounced red spots.
That said, don’t count on using your face to check for high blood pressure. Many people have high blood pressure without showing any signs. It’s essential to have regular checkups and have your blood pressure taken. After all, high blood pressure is called a “silent killer” because someone may have the condition for years without showing any signs.
5. Thyroid Problems
In the lower half of your neck is a gland called the thyroid. The thyroid is responsible for secreting hormones that regulate the body’s temperature, metabolism, and brain function. When the thyroid becomes abnormally enlarged, it’s called a “goiter.” Doctors check a person’s neck, often asking them to move their head around, to evaluate the thyroid.
Diseases that cause abnormal functioning of the thyroid are Graves’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease). Because the thyroid is vital to the body’s health, doctors are always on the lookout for signs of a goiter.
4. Hormonal Imbalance
Your thyroid isn’t the only source of hormones in your body. In women, hormone imbalances may occur due to many conditions, one of which is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS occurs in one out of 10 women and can disrupt a woman’s hormones, causing thickening of the skin, increased facial hair, male pattern baldness, and acne. If a doctor sees these symptoms in a woman, they may order further tests.
3. Liver Disorders
The liver is an essential filter for the body. Along with the kidneys, the liver keeps our body free from toxins and wastes. When the liver isn’t working correctly, or if there are too many toxins to filter, jaundice can occur.
Jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and eyes due to increased bilirubin, is caused by a liver disorder. The body recycles old or damaged red blood cells and forms bilirubin as a waste product. This bilirubin is sent to the liver to mix with bile. This “garbage” mixture gets eliminated out of the body through stool and urine. If the liver isn’t working correctly, bilirubin remains in the body. This waste builds up in the body and makes the skin yellow, resulting in jaundice.
Jaundice appears as a yellow tinge in the skin and eyes. The more bilirubin builds up in the body, the yellower the skin becomes. Doctors are very aware of this phenomenon and are always on the lookout for the yellowing of the skin.
Although there’s a common belief that you have to be overweight to have diabetes, it’s not true. Diabetes does not have a “look.” Someone can be skinny and still be a diabetic. Diabetes does, however, have a scent.
When someone has uncontrolled diabetes, their body can’t access the sugar in the blood to use as energy. Even though they may have large amounts of sugar flowing in their blood, the body doesn’t have the tools to use it. To obtain energy, the body begins to burn fat instead of sugar. The byproduct of this breakdown of fat is ketone. People with diabetes can sometimes exhibit a fruity or acetone odor on their breath and skin because of ketones’ presence.
Ketone is toxic to the body. When too much ketone is present in the blood, the body can develop diabetic ketoacidosis. Doctors will often order a blood sugar test if they smell ketones on a patient’s breath.
1. Breathing Problems
There’s a reason doctors often ask patients not to wear nail polish on their fingers when they go into surgery. Your fingers can indicate your oxygen levels. Medical personnel place a device called a pulse oximeter on your fingertip during surgery or in a hospital. This device measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your fingers are an excellent indication of how well your body is using oxygen.
One of the most physical signs that your body needs oxygen is your nail bed. A nail bed with a bluish tinge or one that doesn’t become pink again immediately after being pressed may indicate a respiratory issue.
Make the Most of Your Healthcare
Doctors are educated, but they’re not psychic. They still need your help. By giving them the information they need, you can help them to find the right treatment options. To make the most of your visit and stay healthy, you can do the following:
A doctor should be one of the people in your life whom you’re most honest. A doctor is legally bound to keep your health information private. Although the information might be embarrassing or awkward, rest assured that your doctor will not judge you and will keep the information private. It might be tempting to tell a doctor a “clean” version of your life, but it won’t help you be healthier. Your doctor must have the right information to keep you healthy and safe.
You are the most essential part of your healthcare team. Your participation is the key to your well-being. Your doctor spent 11 years in school to be a doctor, but he can’t help you alone. You can assist your doctor, and yourself, by staying informed and following the treatment your doctor prescribes. Making the right lifestyle choices like eating right, staying active, and managing stress can make all the difference.