what your medicine cabinet says about you

What Your Medicine Cabinet Says About You

Gas, sweat and bad breath aren't fun for anyone, but are they signs of something more serious? Learn when these five common issues mean something more.

Super strong breath mints

If your bad breath can't be tamed with a mint or gum, there might be a bigger issue at hand. "You don't get chronic bad breath, or halitosis, from eating too much garlic; it's almost always the result of poor oral hygiene," says James Gamble, MD, Virtua family physician. "If after regular check-ups with your dentist, you are still experiencing bad breath, you should talk about it with your physician."

Clinical strength antiperspirant

Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, isn't life-threatening, but it can affect your quality of life. "Prescription antiperspirant may help," says Fiona Baldwin, MD, Virtua family physician who will practice in Virtua's new Health and Wellness Center in Washington Township. "But in some severe cases, botulinum toxin injections, which immobilize the sweat glands, may help."

If you're experiencing drenching sweats or night sweats, Dr. Baldwin warns it could be a cause for concern. "If you are not nearing menopause, it may signify something serious," she says. "It's important to speak with your doctor about it."

Anti-gas everything

Everyone passes gas, but if your excessive flatulence is becoming worrisome, look at your diet. "The healthier your diet - meaning, more fiber, whole grains and vegetables - the more likely your body will produce more gas," says Dr. Gamble.

While gas in of itself is not harmful, you should be concerned if it is accompanied by abdominal pain, a change in bowel movements, bloating, weight loss or fever. "If other symptoms present with the excessive gas, there may a dietary intolerance, disorder or illness," warns Dr. Gamble.

If heartburn accompanies excessive gas, Dr. Gamble says an over-the-counter medicine can help: "As long as it is intermittent and doesn't last longer than a few weeks, you can usually treat it yourself."

A full hair brush

In most cases, you have mom and dad to thank for your hair loss. But, if your hair loss is sudden, coming out in clumps, or more noticeable than before, it can be a sign of something more.

"Hair loss can be a symptom of an under-active thyroid - something we can control with medication," says Dr. Baldwin. "Or it can be alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks its own hair follicles." Dr. Baldwin advises if you are seeing more hair loss than usual, talk to your doctor.

Stop snoring strips

It might not be embarrassing to you, but it might be unbearable to your partner. "Snoring itself isn't dangerous," says Dr. Gamble. "But, if you are constantly tired in the daytime, you may have sleep apnea."

People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. It's usually caused by a blockage of the airway when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. Over time, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

"If a sleep study concludes it is sleep apnea," says Dr. Gamble, "devices are available to help people sleep through the night without interruption."

To make an appointment with a physician or to learn more about Virtua's services,
call 1-888-Virtua-3 (1-888-847-8823).

Updated June 6, 2016

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