These warning signs might not be what you typically associate with conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol or even heart failure, but they could still offer a life-saving window to your health.
TODAY's Dr. Natalie Azar stopped by Studio 1A to offer explanations for unusual changes or symptoms — and what our bodies might be trying to tell us.
Eyes protrude from their sockets? Do you see more white than you should? Look closely at how your eyeball fits into the socket. If you notice a protrusion, it could be a sign of an over-active thyroid. This condition, known as hyperthyroidism, can also lead to sudden weight loss, an irregular heartbeat, sweating and nervousness.
Thinning eyebrows? If you are losing hair around your eyebrows, particularly toward the outside, that could be a sign of an under-active thyroid. Separate from hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain important hormones. This is most common in women over 60, and the disease can cause obesity, joint pain and heart disease.
Smooth, pale tongue? A healthy tongue should be pink and bumpy, covered with small nodules known as papillae. If your tongue is smooth and pale (or unusually sore and swollen), it could be a sign of nutritional deficiencies such as low iron, folate and vitamin B12.
Dark, thick skin around the back of your neck? If you notice a velvety discoloration of the skin around your armpits, groin and neck, it could be a sign of diabetes. Acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition which is characterized by thick, dark-pigmented skin, typically occurs in people who are obese or have diabetes. Children with the condition have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and although it is rare, acanthosis can also be a warning sign of a cancerous tumor in the stomach or liver.
Bumps on your knees? Do you see small, yellow bumps that are soft (they can also be flesh colored or red) on your elbows, joints, tendons, knees, hands or feet? These could be "cholesterol bumps" or xanthomas, a condition due to high cholesterol levels or other serious health issues such as pancreatitis. Some bumps can be very small, while others can be larger than 3 inches in diameter.
Swollen feet or ankles? We've all experienced the occasional swollen foot or ankle if we've been on our feet for a long period of time. However, in some cases, this condition is caused by something much more serious — heart failure. Swelling of the legs and ankles is caused by fluid accumulation in the body, which can be a sign of worsening heart failure. You may feel that your shoes are tighter than normal if swelling in this area is increasing.