48 Strange Symptoms—and What They Mean

Daily Health Solutions,Featured Article,Healthy Living,Multiple Sclerosis
January 28, 2013

From foot cramps to aching big toes, we decode your strange symptoms.

Woman talking with doctor about her health.
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Odd twitches, tics, rashes, bumps and pains—strange symptoms happen to all of us at one time or another. While it’s easy to get spooked by a mysterious mole or unexplained rash, there is usually no need to immediately hit the panic button when physical quirks strike. However, certain bodily oddities should not be ignored, as they might indicate a more serious problem. Many medical conditions manifest themselves in strange symptoms, and it’s best to catch these warning signs sooner rather than later. You, after all, know your body best. If you have a nagging feeling that something is off, it never hurts to see a doctor.

  1. Foot cramps at night: Could signal dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. See a doctor if cramps recur nightly or during the day upon walking—nerve damage or a blood clotting disorder could be to blame.
  2. Dry eyes: common side effect of contact lenses, environmental conditions, age and other factors; also early symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. If eye problems persist, consult an ophthalmologist to assess your symptoms.
  3. Eye twitches: (a.k.a. lid myokymia) associated with stress, too much caffeine, or staring too long at a computer screen. If your chin thrusts forward when you blink, it also could be an early sign of Meige’s syndrome, a rare but treatable neurological disease.
  4. Cold for no reason: possible sign of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). Other symptoms include fatigue, dry skin and unexplained weight gain.
  5. Body twitches while sleeping: could signal sleep apnea or periodic limb movement disorder, a sleep disorder characterized by rhythmic movements of the limbs during sleep.
  6. Pitted nails: common sign of psoriasis, a skin disease that causes patches of dry, red, itchy scales to form across the body. Also related to alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease causing patchy hair loss.
  7. Sore breasts: (a.k.a. mastalgia), normal in menstruating women during monthly hormonal changes. Also associated in rare cases with benign growths (tumors) in the breasts (including cysts) as well as breast cancer.
  8. Bright red stool: associated with eating beets, cranberries or tomato juice; could also signal bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, often from hemorrhoids.
  9. Leg pain with swelling: a calf that is swollen, red and extremely tender to the touch could be caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in the lower leg or thigh. If you are experiencing symptoms of DVT, call your medical provider immediately.
  10. White tongue: can occur due to a build-up of bacteria and debris caused by mild dehydration, illness or dry mouth. White patches with a cottage cheese-like consistency could signal oral thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth that arises in infants or the elderly, especially denture-wearers and individuals with compromised immune systems.
  11. Sore tongue: usually cased by canker sores, painful yet innocuous mouth ulcers. Excessive smoking, anemia and diabetes, can also cause a sore tongue.
  12. Excessive facial hair in women: polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition affecting women of reproductive age, causes hair to grow on the face, chest, stomach, back, hands or feet. More than 70 percent of women with PCOS, which is marked by menstrual irregularities and infertility, experience this excess hair growth, or hirsutism.
  13. Excessive sweating: constant perspiration without cause could mean a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, the excessive sweating that often accompanies thyroid problems, diabetes or infection.
  14. Red eyes: a broken blood vessel (a.k.a subconjunctival hemorrhage), usually harmless and often caused by a severe sneeze or cough. More likely to occur in individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure.
  15. Dry mouth: in combination with dry eye, might signal Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition that interferes with the body’s ability to produce tears and saliva.
  16. Floaters or specks in the eye: typically harmless bits of cellular debris that move across your line of vision. Caused by age-related degeneration in the eye’s vitreous. Could be a sign of retinal detachment if accompanied by flashes of light, eye pain, or vision loss.
  17. Aching big toe: an early sign of gout, a painful form of arthritis caused by the build-up of uric acid.
  18. Unquenchable thirst: a classic sign of Type 1 or 2 diabetes, when coupled with frequent trips to the restroom. If you’re also experiencing blurred vision, fatigue or weight loss, see a doctor immediately for a blood sugar test to rule out diabetes.
  19. Retina freckles: (a.k.a. choroidal nevi) usually harmless, but should be monitored by a doctor for the development of choroidal melanoma, a tumor found in the eye. In some instances, retinal freckles can also be a sign of colon cancer.
  20. Unusual urine odor: absent a dinner of asparagus or new vitamin supplement, could be a symptom of medical conditions including diabetes, cystitis, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and, in rare cases, liver failure.
  21. Painless lump in armpit: most likely an enlarged lymph node due to infection or illness. If persists post-recovery, see a doctor. Enlarged nodes in the armpit, neck and groin are a common warning sign of lymphoma, cancer of the lymph glands.
  22. Green stool: indicates rapid transit through the intestines. Possible causes include Crohn’s disease, antibiotic use, iron supplements or consumption of leafy green vegetables.
  23. Craving and chewing ice: common symptom of iron-deficiency anemia. Some studies suggest that the chewing of ice relieves glossitis, the inflammation of the tongue brought on by iron deficiencies.
  24. Bulging eyes: a sign of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). With this condition, the eyes blink infrequently and appear to have a staring quality.
  25. Black vertical streak on nails: black or bluish-black streaks on the nails can be a sign of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. See a dermatologist as soon as possible.
  26. Thinning eyebrows: classic warning sign of hypothyroidism. A simple blood test can detect thyroid hormone levels.
  27. Difficulty swallowing: (a.k.a. dysphagia) often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Also an early warning sign of esophageal or throat cancer. See a doctor if it persists.
  28. Unexplained bruising: if in strange places such as on the fingers or hands might point to leukemia.
  29. Unexplained feeling of fullness: could be a tip-off to ovarian cancer if accompanied by pelvic pain and abdominal bloating that comes on fairly suddenly and occurs on and off over a long period of time. If you suspect something is off, call a doctor.
  30. Itchy skin all over: if dry skin ruled out, often a symptom of pregnancy and menopause; could also be caused by liver disease, celiac disease and certain cancers (including leukemia and lymphoma).
  31. Persistent hiccups: if lasting longer than 48 hours, could be a sign of central nervous problems (cancer, infection or stroke); decreased kidney function; or irritation of nerves in the head, neck, and chest. Seek medical attention.
  32. Dizziness when standing: (a.k.a. orthostatic hypotension): caused by a rapid decrease in systolic blood pressure. If experienced frequently, see a doctor; it might indicate heart problems or Parkinson’s.
  33. Ringing in the ears: (a.k.a. tinnitus) associated with age-related hearing loss, exposure to large noise or earwax build-up. Sometimes a symptom of allergies, head and neck tumors, or problems in the jaw, neck or blood vessels. Certain medications can also cause tinnitus.
  34. Tingling in hands and feet: (a.k.a peripheral neuropathy) often caused by diabetes (up to 30 percent of cases). Also related to nerve entrapment disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, B-vitamin deficiencies, alcoholism or certain systematic diseases such as liver disease, blood diseases and kidney disorders.
  35. Heat intolerance: possible side effect of anxiety or too much caffeine. Menopause and hyperthyroidism can also cause a feeling of being overheated, as can multiple sclerosis (MS).
  36. Heart fluttering: can be due to anxiety or caffeine intake. Also related to hormonal changes, such as when pregnant, undergoing menopause, or overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Also a sign of an underlying heart condition. Seek medical attention if palpitations are accompanied by dizziness, chest pain, or fainting.
  37. Loss of taste: common in older adults, especially after age 60; also associated with Alzheimer’s, nasal and sinus problems and cigarette smoking. Nutritional deficiencies of vitamin B12 or zinc might also be implicated.
  38. Hearing loss in one ear only: (a.k.a. unilateral deafness) often an early symptom of acoustic neuroma, a slow-growing, benign tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Can cause nerve damage; see a doctor if you experience any unusual hearing loss, ringing in the ear or trouble with balance.
  39. Thin, brittle nails: typically a sign of nutritional deficiencies, including iron deficiency anemia, biotin deficiencies and insufficient protein intake. Also related to hypothyroidism.
  40. Blood in urine: often caused by urinary tract infections and kidney stones. Bladder cancer and kidney cancer can also cause blood to appear in the urine. See a doctor right away.
  41. Scaly or crusty patches on the scalp: often indicative of psoriasis, a common autoimmune disease.
  42. Chicken bumps on skin: (a.k.a. keratosis pilaris) a common, harmless skin condition causing rough patches and small, acne-like bumps, typically on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. Usually disappears on its own.
  43. Dark under-eye circles: allergies (including food allergies and sensitivities) and hay fever are common causes; iron deficiency anemia, lack of sleep and dehydration might also be to blame.
  44. Yellow nails: commonly caused by a fungal infection, although can also be a sign of diabetes, severe thyroid disease or lung disease.
  45. Butterfly rash: a red rash spreading across the cheeks and bridge of nose, often a tell-tale sign of lupus, or rosacea, a harmless skin condition that causes facial redness and swelling. See a doctor if accompanied by fatigue, fever and joint pain or stiffness.
  46. Vertigo: due in most cases to inner ear disturbances; other causes include labyrinthitis, a viral infection of the inner ear, or Meniere’s disease, a common inner ear problem that causes ringing or roaring in the affected ear. Migraines or dehydration might also be to blame.
  47. Bluish fingernails: indicates that the body is not receiving enough oxygen, often because of pulmonary obstruction, emphysema or lung disease. Consult a medical professional immediately.
  48. Cracking and popping joints: (a.k.a. crepitus) thought to be caused by air bubbles in the synovial fluid—the liquid surrounding and lubricating the joints —and by tendons snapping over tissues. Harmless unless accompanied by injury, swelling or pain.
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