Sometimes your body just … does stuff. Like, really weird stuff that may lead you to wonder, “Why is that happening? What is this, anyway? Is this a common health issue? Does this happen to everyone or just me? And should I be doing something about this?”
In alphabetical order, here are 10 health issues that you may or may not have thought about (but you definitely will now):
Small sacs of skin that pop up and are usually filled with a clear, watery serum.
Cause: Friction on the skin, sunburn, frostbite or contact with allergenic plants like poison ivy. If you continue to rub or overuse areas that form blisters, they may go on to form calluses, the thickened skin that develops as protection. Calluses are revered by some (runners) and reviled by others (romantic partners, gymnasts).
Treatment: If you can live with it until it goes down (and it will), cover it with a bandage and a moleskin doughnut and leave it alone to minimize infection risk. If it’s too painful or so large that it interferes in your life, drain the blister without removing the overlying skin. Mayo Clinic recommends first washing your hands with hot water and soap and then sanitizing the blister with iodine. Using a sterilized needle, gently puncture it at the sides and let it drain without removing the skin. Apply ointment and cover with a gauze bandage. If it becomes infected, see your doctor immediately.
Caution: Don’t attempt to drain a blister yourself if you have diabetes or bad circulation. See your doctor.
2. Charley Horse
Sudden, involuntary muscle cramps, usually in the legs.
There are many tales about the origin of the name. One says a baseball player in the late 1800s bet on a horse named Charley that pulled up lame. When a player later pulled a tendon, his teammates said he looked like their old Charley horse.
Cause: Exercising for a long time, dehydration, holding one position for an extended period.
Treatment: Apply heat or cold compresses, depending on what works best for you. Gently stretch and massage the affected muscle. Stay hydrated. If you tend to get leg cramps at night, a study published by American Family Physician found that vitamin B supplements can reduce cramp frequency.
Caution: Mayo Clinic urges you to see a doctor if this:
- Happens frequently
- Doesn’t get better with self-care
- Causes severe pain
- Is accompanied by swelling and redness
3. Clammy Hands
Sweaty, moist hands. Also known as hyperhidrosis.
The “clammy” descriptor doesn’t come from the slimy edible mollusk, but rather the original definition of the word clammy, which was Old English for “smear.”
Cause: When the sympathetic nervous system is overactive, it causes a narrowing of the arteries and overstimulation of sweat glands. The reduced blood flow to the hands makes them feel cold and clammy.
Treatment: If this has become a serious problem for you, see your doctor. There are various medications and injections (such as Botox) that can help, says Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. If the problem persists, there are surgical options where the affected nerve is cut or removed.
4. Eye Twitches
Minor spasms of the upper and lower eyelids.
As bothersome as it might be to you, most people cannot tell that your eye is twitching. Unless you point it out to them and lean in real close, of course.
Cause: Exhaustion, stress, too much caffeine and dry, irritated eyes.
Treatment: The twitches are usually just brief, minor annoyances. However, if they are not subsiding:
- Take a nap
- Cut back on or cut out caffeine
- Lubricate your eyes
- Practice stress-reducing exercises such as mindfulness, yoga, rhythmic breathing and meditation.
Caution: If this is an ongoing problem, your vision is affected, or you can’t get rid of a gritty feeling in your eye, see your eye care specialist.
Involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, followed by the closure of the vocal cords.
There’s an old wives tale that says hiccups are caused by someone talking about you, and the only way to get rid of them is to guess the name of the person.
Cause: Drinking alcohol or carbonated beverages; overeating; swallowing air; emotional distress or high excitement; rapid temperature changes; or undergoing anesthesia.
Treatment: Usually, hiccups go away on their own. If not, The Mayo Clinic suggests:
- Breathing into a paper bag
- Holding your breath
- Slowing breathing
- Sipping or gargling with cold water.
To help prevent hiccups you can limit carbonated and alcoholic drinks and eat smaller meals.
Caution: The National Organization for Rare Disorders says that chronic hiccups can be a sign of underlying disease, like:
- Nerve damage in diaphragm muscles
- Disorders of the stomach or esophagus
- Bowel diseases
If your hiccups don’t stop after a day or two, see your healthcare provider.
6. Jaw Tingles/Spasms (When You Eat Certain Foods)
Ever bite into a strawberry or take your first swig of beer and feel your jaw temporarily tighten and tingle? Then you don’t feel it again even though you continue ingesting? Yeah, that.
Cause: When you eat something sour, tannic, alcoholic, or sugary, your salivary glands may overproduce saliva. That tingly reaction is because your glands can’t release a large amount of saliva quickly. (Did you know the normal daily production of saliva ranges from two to four pints per day?)
Treatment: This occurs more frequently when you are dehydrated, so drink a lot of water. Otherwise, just wait and it should go away in a few seconds.
Caution: If the pain is frequent and severe or returns during the meal, see a doctor. You may have a blocked salivary duct. Severe jaw pain that comes on quickly may be the sign of a heart attack – call your doctor or seek emergency help immediately, says Cleveland Clinic.
7. Ringing Ears
Noises in one or both of your ears when no outside sound is occurring.
Also called tinnitus, it may become chronic. There are many famous people with tinnitus, from Beethoven and Van Gogh to Chris Martin, Barbra Streisand and Liza Minelli.
Cause: You can get a temporary case after experiencing loud noises such as a heavy metal concert or street jackhammering or if your ear canal gets blocked due to a sinus infection. Certain medications such as antibiotics and non-steroid anti-inflammatories can cause it as well. If it never goes away, it can be:
- A symptom of age-related hearing loss
- An ear, head or neck injury, a circulatory system issue
- An underlying disease such as Meniere’s
Treatment: There aren’t a lot of treatments, just ways to reduce the impact. White noise boxes can help mask the ringing sound. Reduce alcohol, caffeine and smoking – all can affect the circulatory system. If this doesn’t help, see an ear, nose and throat specialist who can check your medications and for other medical issues.
Caution: Since treatment is limited, your best bet is prevention. Turn down the volume on your earbuds, wear ear protection when working with loud machinery and kiss death metal goodbye.
That roof-rattling sound that occurs when you are asleep and makes your sleeping partner very, very (did we mention very?) cranky.
Cause: Relaxed throat tissues vibrate when you breathe.
Treatment: Everyone gives a little snort now and then, but if you are summoning the cows home every night, try these solutions:
- Lose weight – extra weight is held in your throat, reducing the air passages
- Limit alcohol before bedtime
- Sleep on your side with a back pillow that can support you
Your dentist can also create a mouth device that will hold your jaw in the correct position. If you think the treatments above sound unsavory, just be thankful it’s not 1967, when anti-snoring shock collars were contemplated by some ambitious inventors.
Caution: If snoring does not subside, see a sleep specialist to see if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which is loud snoring followed by short periods of breathing cessation. It can cause high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, liver problems and metabolic syndrome, says Mayo Clinic. Your doctor may recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that helps you breathe more easily and steadily.
9. Stomach Rumbles
That growling noise your stomach makes, seemingly always at the most embarrassing moments, is also known as borborygmi. Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: Ghost crabs use teeth in their stomach to growl at their enemies. Maybe you wish you could do that when someone cuts ahead of you in line at the supermarket.
Cause: The recipe for gurgling includes liquid and gas in the intestines combined with muscular contractions of your stomach wall, says the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.
Treatment: If you’re hungry, eat light and chew slowly to give your mouth enzymes time to break down the food, says Prime Health. Drink (don’t gulp) water throughout the day. Change your diet to avoid gassy foods such as:
- Carbonated drinks
- Dairy products
- Acidic foods
- Spicy foods
Taking a walk after meals also helps digestion.
Caution: If your stomach symphony is often accompanied by pain or diarrhea, see a doctor about possibilities like:
- Lactose intolerance
- Celiac disease
- Stomach blockage
- Another underlying disease
10. Stress Sweat
You just went through a final home inspection or a tax audit and think, “This place smells like rotting eggs. Oh, wait, is that coming from me? GAH!!” There’s a difference between regular sweating due to exercise or being hot and sweat that occurs under stress.
Cause: When you feel a strong emotion, sweat is released from the apocrine glands in the armpits, groin, nipples, skin and eyelids (yes, your eyelids can have body odor!), which is high in fatty acids and protein. (Released from the eccrine glands, regular sweat is comprised of only water, salt and potassium). When bacteria break down stress sweat, it gives off that heady aroma of je ne sais quois. Some experts theorize the reason our stress sweat smells bad is the result of evolution – our bodies emit the smell to ward off predators.
Treatment: Shower daily with antibacterial soap all over. Use an antiperspirant in your armpits. It makes your skin more acidic and less hospitable to bacteria. (And do we really have to tell you? No, DO NOT apply deodorant on your eyelids! They don’t smell that much!) Give your clothes the sniff test before wearing. If stress is an ongoing problem in your life, try meditation, mindfulness, exercise, yoga, rhythmic breathing or psychological therapy. Also, if you know you’re going to have a hard day, throw in some underarm sweat pads to keep the stink out of your clothes. Toss and replace as needed.
Caution: If body odor persists, ask your doctor or pharmacist for recommendations for high octane foot and armpit deodorants.
Your body is an amazing piece of machinery. When you think of all the things it has to do just for us to be able to get up in the morning, it’s remarkable we survive as a species. But just as with any equipment, there are always a few glitches. If nothing else, these ten common health issues should prove to you that we all experience the same odd body quirks. When your body does weird things, now you can tell yourself, “That’s what makes me human!”
Were any of these common health issues surprising to you? Do you find the suggestions helpful? Do you have helpful treatments of your own to add?
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