We’ve all developed an unusual symptom at some point, which is generally followed by frantic phone calls to friends and family and hours spent online searching for a diagnosis. Even if you’re not a hypochondriac, it’s normal to be weirded out by a bizarre new symptom, especially if you’ve never heard of it before.
Because there’s no way to know for sure if your symptom is innocent or a sign of an underlying and potentially serious health condition, it’s wise to visit your GP and get checked out. And don’t worry if your symptom is difficult to explain or embarrassing; your doctor has heard it all.
Patrick Neustatter, M.D., author of Managing Your Doctor: The Smart Patient’s Guide to Getting Effective, Affordable Healthcare, says, “Doctors are used to talking about pretty much anything and don’t get embarrassed too easily, and neither should you.”
He recommends starting with “this may sound weird” or “I’m embarrassed to tell you” to break the ice. And never hesitate to get a second opinion, especially “if you’re being ignored, pushed too hard toward invasive treatments, or if you’re not getting better.”
Itching of the mouth or throat is usually caused by oral allergy syndrome, a condition related to pollen allergies. The syndrome, which may also produce lip swelling, typically occurs seconds or minutes after eating raw fruits and vegetables. Avoiding the offending food and taking an antihistamine is all that is necessary to treat this reaction. If you don’t think the itching is triggered by food, oral herpes or oral thrush may be to blame.
Normal urine color ranges from nearly clear to deep amber, depending on how concentrated it is. So, what does it mean if your urine is raspberry red or bright blue? Chances are, it just means you’ve eaten too many beets, blackberries, or artificially colored candies. Some medications can also change the color of your urine. However, red urine can indicate bleeding from a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or cancer, and dark urine may mean your liver isn’t working properly.
If your friends and family have been commenting on your lovely bronze glow, but you spend most of your time indoors, it’s time to see your doctor. Darkening of the skin can be caused by several disorders requiring treatment, including Addison’s Disease, which is an endocrine disorder, and hereditary hemochromatosis, a serious condition resulting from an overload of iron in the body. Certain medications can also create an unexplained suntan.
For the really unlucky, orgasms can bring on severe headaches that may last for days. Men are three times more likely to experience these headaches than women, but they are mood killers for all involved. Sex headaches generally aren’t linked to serious medical problems, but they can be caused by a tumor, aneurysm, stroke, or other condition, so make sure you mention them to your doctor.
Hiccups affect and annoy everyone at some point, but if your hiccups last for days or weeks, it’s time to get help. Some cases of hiccups are the result of benign conditions, such as drinking hot liquids, eating spicy foods, a foreign object touching your eardrum, or phrenic or vagus nerve irritation, but persistent hiccups can point to a serious medical problem. Neck tumors, stroke, and lung or esophageal cancer are possible causes requiring urgent diagnosis and treatment. Pneumonia, liver cancer, and hepatitis can also trigger chronic hiccups, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
Imagine your hand reaching up and rubbing your cheek without your control or consent. Alien Hand Syndrome causes loss of control of the hand and is typically associated with tumors, aneurysms, neurosurgery, and stroke. Patients experiencing this rare and terrifying symptom report seemingly purposeful movement of one of their hands, as though someone else is controlling it.
Those annoying little eye twitches you’ve probably experienced more than a few times are rarely cause for concern. Doctors aren’t sure what triggers them, but they usually affect the upper eyelids and may be associated with stress, fatigue, and use of caffeine. Sometimes, though, eye twitches are linked to more serious conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, or Bell’s Palsy. The occasional twitch shouldn’t be a reason for alarm, and it’s unlikely anyone else is aware of your twitch, but if the problem becomes chronic or causes pain, see your doctor.
This bizarre symptom is associated with a rare delusional condition called Cotard’s Syndrome. Sufferers believe they have lost organs, blood, body parts, or their soul, and some believe they are actually dead. It’s possibly caused by a malfunction in the fusiform gyrus area of the brain and in the amygdala, an almond-shaped set of neurons responsible for the processing of emotions. The delusion can lead to death if the sufferer believes they no longer require food or can’t be harmed by bullets.
White spots, bruises, and streaks on the nails are all pretty common, so how do you know when to worry? Dark or black streaks tend to prompt the most panic, but mild trauma to the nail is usually to blame for these marks. Certain medications, some inflammatory conditions, and endocrine disorders are other potential causes. If you have a personal or family history of melanoma, if the discoloration affects only the thumb, big toe, or index finger, or if the black streak extends into the nail fold, you’ll need a biopsy to rule out subungual melanoma.
A decrease or loss of taste is common in older adults and is a normal part of aging. Certain medications, nutritional deficiencies, minor infections, and cigarette smoking can also affect taste, as can diseases like Alzheimer’s, hepatitis, and oral cancer. Metallic or other strange tastes in the mouth are usually triggered by medication usage, gum disease, tooth decay, infections, pregnancy, and allergies. Rarely, changes in taste can point to something requiring urgent medical attention.
Foreign Accent Syndrome is a rare disorder that causes a sudden change to speech, making the speaker sound like he or she has a “foreign” accent. It is most often induced by a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or a traumatic brain injury, and reported cases around the world include changes from Japanese to Korean, from British to French, and from American English to British English. If you wake up one day and notice you’ve started speaking with a Southern twang or Spanish accent, go straight to the ER.
If you’ve ever heard a loud bang—like a gunshot or bomb explosion—during sleep, you may be experiencing Exploding Head Syndrome. The loud bang is not painful, but it may incite extreme fear and confusion, and it tends to occur both when falling asleep and when waking. Females are more at risk than males, according to the American Sleep Association, and as many as 10 percent of the population is affected. There are many theories about what causes Exploding Head Syndrome, including minor temporal lobe seizures, stress, anxiety, impairment in calcium signalling, sudden shifts of middle ear components, and brainstem neuronal dysfunction.