Self-exam-How healthy are you?
Women's health ought to be their prized possession. Not many women give this a serious thought. "Prevention is better than cure" and "Health is wealth" are sayings all of us are familiar with. We also hear that a healthy diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, regular exercise and a good night's sleep will ensure good health. While this may be true to a large extent it is important for all of us, particularly women to do these regular self-examinations to ensure our health is fine and to visit a doctor should something be amiss.
After all, a woman is often the central figure in the family and her physical and mental health well-being is crucial to the happiness of the entire family.
Oral Cavity Examination - Mouth, Teeth and Gums
The first thing most of us do in the morning is brush our teeth. This would be a good time to closely examine the mouth including the tongue, floor of the mouth (under the tongue), gums, teeth and lips for any unusual findings.
Swollen or bleeding gums could indicate a gum infection. Mouth sores or at the angle of the mouth may be due to underlying vitamin or mineral deficiency. Move your tongue around the inside of the mouth to feel for any unusual lumps that persist. They could be cancer symptoms. White patches on the cheek may be due to lichen planus, a condition more common in women.
A thorough breast examination at least once a month is recommended to detect any new lumps that could be cancer. Early detection is key to cancer cure.
A breast self-examination is best done standing in front of the mirror. Check for any abnormal appearance of the breast skin such as dimpling, puckering, or swelling. Check the nipples for any soreness, redness or retraction.
Next feel each breast separately with the palm of the opposite hand held flat against the skin. Start at the collar bone from the top and using a circular motion down to the abdomen, feel for any lump or hardness. The examination may be repeated lying down to reveal any changes with position.
Hair and Nail Examination
Examination of hair and nails can tell a lot about a woman's health. Dry and brittle hair could be a sign of malnutrition and nutritional deficiency. Bald patches or thinning of hair may be a sign of underlying disease. Hair growth on face and associated weight gain, acne, darkening and menses problems may be due to hormonal imbalance. Scalp dandruff is another condition that may require treatment.
Brittle nails could mean malnutrition. Discolored nails may be present in iron deficiency, fungal nail infection or nail cancer. Transverse or longitudinal ridges may signify underlying disease. If you notice anything unusual consult a doctor.
Skin examination - The Mirror of Our Internal Organs
The skin is the largest organ and is a mirror of the body. Several systemic diseases are associated with skin changes and may in fact be the first abnormality that encourages a person to seek medical advice.
Skin changes such as ulcer, discoloration, thickening, rash, lumps, pustules, hair loss and depigmented patches are seen to occur in several common conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, infections, autoimmune diseases and internal malignancies. Darkening and roughness of the skin under the armpits may be due to diabetes.
Look out for sudden appearance of new moles, enlargement of preexisting moles associated with itching, bleeding or other unusual features. It may be skin cancer.
Eye Examination - Our Window to the World
Eyes are affected in several diseases such as diabetes, glaucoma, liver disease and infections. Eye strain due to prolonged staring at computer screens is a well-documented condition.
Eye changes that occur commonly include eye pain and fatigue, redness, watering, dry eyes and blurred vision. In liver disease the eyes may show yellow discoloration, very often the first noticed sign. Tiny yellow lumps on the eyelids could indicate cholesterol deposits due to increased blood cholesterol and may increase the risk of heart disease. Refractive errors and abnormalities of lens could cause blurred vision and difficulty focusing on objects.
Consult an eye specialist if you notice any of the above changes.
Abnormalities in Periods
Periods or menses are an uncomfortable experience every woman has to undergo for the most part of her life. As such abnormalities in periods may indicate underlying disease.
Common menstrual abnormalities include too frequent or infrequent periods, heavy periods. If persistent and troublesome, consult a gynecologist. Abnormal and excess white and smelly discharge from the vagina may be due to vaginal infection and needs treatment of the woman as well as her partner.
The most important symptom to look out for is bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods and could be due to genital tract cancer. It is important to consult a gynecologist.
Urine is formed by the kidneys and contains waste products and toxins excreted from the body. Examination of the urine could reveal presence of urinary tract disease as well as other diseases. Normal urine is straw colored.
Urine abnormalities include the passage of very yellow urine which may be due to drinking insufficient water and can increase risk of urinary infection. Blood in urine may be due to stone, infection, tumor in the urinary tract or other kidney disease. Increased urinary frequency may be due to bladder infection, particularly if associated with fever, discomfort and passage of cloudy urine.
Weight - Avoid Obesity and Maintain Optimal Weight
Checking weight regularly is necessary to check for any sudden weight loss or weight gain. Weight loss can occur due to diet fads, chronic infection, cancer, stress or hormonal disorders. Similarly, weight gain can occur due to eating disorders, depression, diabetes, kidney disease and certain hormonal disorders.
Even in the absence of any underlying disease, maintaining a healthy optimal weight is important because obesity and high body mass index are associated with heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers.
Make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes, starting today. Get moving to stay fit.
Staying Healthy and Fit with These Simple Self- Checks
Staying healthy and fit physically will help you stay emotionally healthy too, ready to take on life's challenges. Do these simple self-health checks regularly and ensure you identify any unusual finding or change in your body early enough and see a doctor. Your health is in your hands. Check it out yourself and enjoy a long and healthy life.