Our bodies can produce strange symptoms, but how do we know when it’s time for a checkup?
NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar highlighted five symptoms on TODAY Wednesday and explained what they could mean and when to get them checked out.
“Any dramatic change in your nail, whether it’s a change in the color, a change in the quality or consistency, suddenly you have new pits, new ridges, it’s probably a good idea to see your health care provider,” Azar said. “You can learn a lot about nail changes in terms of your underlying health.”
For example, nail pitting could be associated with psoriasis, pale nails can be associated with anemia and blue nails could mean you’re not getting enough oxygen, she said.
Cracks on the side of the mouth
This could occasionally happen if you lick your lips a lot and they get dry.
But a really cracked, red and inflamed condition could be more serious - a sign of infection like a fungus or a sign of nutritional deficiency, Azar said.
“One of the most common ones would be B12 deficiency,” she said. “We see that a lot in people who are vegan because B12 sources really come from animal products. But a lot of different nutritional deficiencies such as iron and zinc and other B vitamins can also cause this.”
Unusual urine odor
Sometimes, just being dehydrated can give your urine a little bit of a stronger smell.
“But if it’s a very pungent odor, more like ammonia-like, it could be an indicator of an underlying bladder infection or inflammation,” Azar said.
A fruity smell is sometimes found in people with diabetes, she said.
Tingling in the hand and feet
If you suffer from sciatica or a herniated disk and you feel numbness or tingling in say your big toe or in one foot, it’s probably not an immediate medical emergency, Azar said.
“If you suddenly have tingling and numbness and pins and needles in both hands and both feet, it could be a cause of concern,” Azar said, mentioning underlying infections, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders and toxins. “Things like that can actually cause this, so you should seek a consultation with a health care provider.”
“There’s this condition we call pica, which is when people will chew on a non-nutritional substance for greater than one month,” Azar said. “The classic scenario is chewing on clay or dirt, especially when you’re anemic.”
But chewing on ice is another example of this, she said, and can signify an underlying iron deficiency anemia and should be checked out.
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter: @lisaflam