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There’s a saying that the “eyes are the windows to your soul,” it’s no wonder that some doctors say the face is the window to your overall health, which is why you usually always get a once over of your eyes, ears, nose and mouth when you visit a medical practitioner’s office.  This practice while vitally important to your examination is probably the part that many people pay the least amount of attention to.

“Most patients may assume that when they go in for their annual physical or even for just a regular check-up that checking the blood pressure, weight, heartbeat and drawing blood are the only essential aspects of the examination and that the part where the physician does a cursory look over of the face is just for good measure, however, this is not necessarily so,” says Dr. Mortimer Moxey.  “The face can say a lot about what is going on in the rest of the body and a physician knows that,” says the family doctor who operates out of Dr. Mortimer Moxey’s Medical Practice at #2 Beatrice Avenue, Monastery Park.  “Something you may take for granted — a red eye, occasional bleeding from the nose, a bump in the mouth, a spot on the tongue, bad breath, can all tell a story about your general health.”

The doctor says what medical practitioners gather from just looking at your “mug” can tell a lot about your physical health unbeknownst to you.

Your face is an open book

When you first enter your doctor’s office the medical practitioner is already beginning to assess your health not only by your gait and physique but also your facial expression.  even before the examination starts the medical professional probably already has an idea of what health matters could be afflicting you and which tests to run, but physicians always speak one-on-one with patients to analyze what is going on in their lives that could be causing a problem, says the doctor.

“There is a lot you can tell by a patient’s wellbeing, by analyzing their mood and how it may be affecting their health.  As a proper physician it is proper to speak one-on-one with your patient so you know what is going on in their life that could be causing a problem.”  He says a saddened look indicates to a doctor that your issue can be stress-related, a sign of depression, fatigue or any number of problems that are side affects of bigger issues.  Medical professionals will find out the story behind your look and keep it all in mind as he decides how to treat you in accordance to what he finds as he does a deeper examination.

Taking a look at the eyes

During an examination, one of the first things your doctor will check is your eyes as they are sensitive and one of the most likely areas of the body to show symptoms of obvious or underlying illnesses.

“When a patient comes in, the first area of the body you interact with is their eyes.  you can look into the patient’s eyes and see if there is a problem.  If you see that the patient has red eyes and it is not from lack of sleep or other habits it can be indicative of other problems.  The first thought would be conjunctivitis, whether it’s being caused by a virus, bacteria or allergy.  most people will contract this common eye infection and it’s no problem.  It can easily clear up, although some strains like the viral one is infectious.”

Dr. Moxey says there could also be small chance that the red eyes could also indicate conjunctivitis which can be caused when a person with gonorrhea who isn’t being properly treated touches their eyes with unwashed hands.  This kind of conjunctivitis if not treated can be serious but he says that very rarely ever happens.  If there was no knowledge of the sexually transmitted disease prior to the eye infection he says it’s a good time to get treatment as well.  The doctor says sometimes babies born to mothers with gonorrhea can develop (conjunctivitis) and if you assume the red eyes are the result of a cold and will clear up, and you don’t treat it properly, you may risk the health of the child’s eyes if complications occur, or even overall health.

Hepatitis or liver failure are other health problems that doctors can discover just by looking at the eyes.  This is suspected when the sclera (white part) of the patient’s eyes are yellowed indicating that the liver is not functioning well.  Also if a patient’s inner eyelids are pale it may be an indication of anemia, a condition that results due to a deficiency of iron in the bloodstream says Dr. Moxey.  a patient with bulging eyes tells the doctor that he is probably suffering from an overactive thyroid and it could be in an advanced stage.

“The eyes can definitely say a lot.  Many people just assume that a problem in one part of the body does not affect another but this is sometimes incorrect.  Many problems may actually be localized like eye styes, ulcers, torn corneas, glaucoma and only affect a specific part of the body, but sometimes the tip of a major illness appears at one place as a small issue while a more serious underlying problem lies elsewhere.  This is especially true if you are looking at the mouth. When a doctor checks this region he is looking to make sure your teeth are in good order, gums and tongue are healthy and breath is normal.  People take for granted that they only have to worry about this when they go to the dentist but oral health is just as much a medical issue.”

The family doctor says when they look into the mouth, they are looking to find a tongue that is smooth, pink and healthy and for the breath to be relatively fresh even hours after brushing.  He says if there is a smell, the tongue is covered in film, unusually bumpy or the mouth has unnatural sores there is likely to be a bigger problem afoot.

“The tongue should be healthy and pink when your doctor does a quick check.  If it’s not, then you have a problem.  If you have hard bumps that show up on your tongue out of nowhere your doctor may be concerned it could be cancer but this may just as well be a burn or any number of things.  If I see a patient with a blue tongue and it’s not from candy, juice or food, then it is likely to be cyanosis which is the blue or purple coloration of the skin or mucous membranes due to the area being low in oxygen [and this] needs to be treated immediately.  If the tongue is pale it may also indicate anemia.  If it’s extremely red then it may indicate carbon monoxide poisoning which is more common in people attempting suicide via inhaling their car’s exhaust in an enclosed space.  If it’s dry then the patient may be dehydrated and this can indicate a number of other problems that may be disease related or due to medications the patient is on.  If it is white and filmy it is likely to be the onset of the candida fungus or yeast infection commonly known as thrush.  It is common in diabetics or persons with compromised immune systems.  It is treatable, but needs to be closely watched in persons with ongoing health concerns.”

Another sign that may alarm you is a black hairy tongue, but the doctor says it’s generally harmless, as a black hairy tongue is common among smokers and the issue can be resolved by brushing the tongue normally and cutting back on smoking — if not quitting.  a geographical tongue, one in which different regions of the tongue are different textures and sometimes even colors is also harmless even though a bit scary at first sight.  Spots on the tongue are generally harmless as well, especially if you were born with them but if not then you may need to seek a medical opinion.

The doctor says taking a look at the lips are also essential in determining a patient’s health.  Cracks at the edge of the mouth can indicate ill-fitting dentures.  Dry lips spell dehydration.  Pale lips are a sign of anemia.

It’s all in the breath — the smell factor

Your breath is also a major indicator of what is going on in your body.  a quick sniff test by your doctor can tell them if you are suffering from any major health problems even before they do an actual test.

“Your breath is supposed to be mildly fresh especially if you have no cavities and have not eaten recently.  If there is an odor constantly then you may have a problem.”

Dr. Moxey says if the smell is basically offensive it may be a dental problem such as cavities or the residue of food decomposing behind the gums or between teeth due to poor brushing.  If the smell is mousy it may very well be an indication of liver or pancreatic failure.  a urine-like smell marks the likelihood of a kidney problem.  Diabetes is known for creating a fruity or sometimes acetone-like (nail polish) smell in the breath.

Checking the nose and airways is also a good way to tell the general health of a person says Dr. Moxey. When your doctor checks your nose it is to ensure your airways are not infected, inflamed and are clear of any foreign objects that could cause problems later down the line.  If all is not clear, taking a look at mucous found in the cavity can shine some light on what is going on in the body.

“If a patient comes in with a cold, the color of their mucous gives some indication about their health.  Mucous is supposed to be clear for the most part in a healthy person. If it is white, yellow, green or brown it says there is definitely an infection going on.  It can be a major problem if it becomes an infection in other parts of the body like the head and chest or is prolonged as there is a small chance it may affect the lower part of the brain.  If you have bleeding in the nose, it may be a common nosebleed but it could be a deeper indication of another ongoing problem.”

The ear can also give doctors some insight to your health.  Doctors check your ear canal every visit to see that wax is developing normally, and that no pus or other unwanted bodily fluids are collecting or oozing and there is nothing stuck in the ear — especially in curious children.  just through speaking with a patient, a doctor can find out the status of a patient’s hearing ability and decide if there is a problem brewing.

“If there is a chance that hearing loss is present and it is not due to age or trauma it can indicate the presence of a hereditary disease or an illness that results in deafness.  your doctor will advise you to do more tests such as a auditory exam or do an x-ray of the ear to better analyze the problem.  so while your family doctor often cannot see any problems in this region of the face, it is best to be honest with him so he knows what to do to help you if there is a visually undetectable problem.”

Other problems people may encounter with the outer ear (the part you can see) are tags or extra skin that hang from the ear or naturally enlarged ears.  These are generally not major problems or indications of any medical problems and correction of them are more so for vanity purposes rather than medical necessity according to the doctor.

Now that you know that your face has a lot to say about your well-being, before you fork over money to do an x-ray, a cat scan or any other major medical examination to uncover the status of your health, sometimes a quick visit to your physician to get a look at your face is a good first step to take.  after all, the face is the window to the body and one’s health, and it’s important to “read” the story it tells.

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