Special Report

Drinking Too Much Coffee and 18 Ordinary Habits That Can Be Signs of Serious Health Problems

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6. You scratch your skin a lot: Celiac disease

Celiac disease is the body’s immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Itchy skin and a blistery rash, which may resemble eczema, are common signs of the condition. It happens because the immune system attacks the skin as a result of gluten ingestion. A person may sometimes first feel burning around the elbows, knees, scalp, buttocks, and back. “Gluten rash,” or dermatitis herpetiformis, often first occurs in adolescence and is more common among men. The only known long-term treatment is a gluten-free diet.

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7. You change your handwriting: Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a nervous system disease that affects movement and often includes tremors. People can also notice a change in their handwriting, specifically micrographia. Words become smaller and more cramped together because of the muscle stiffness in the hands and fingers. Micrographia is present in approximately half of patients. In Parkinson’s patients, neurons, which produce dopamine, gradually die. With no or low levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that acts as the brain’s messenger to other nerve cells, no messages are being sent to the muscles telling them to move. This can lead to stiffness and changes in handwriting.

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8. You experience road rage: Severe depression

Outbursts of anger and episodes of road rage can mean a lot more than a momentary lapse in judgement. A study of more than 530 patients diagnosed with unipolar major depression found that 54% experienced incidents of overt irritability and anger. They also showed worse impulse control. Such episodes are a sign of more severe and chronic depressive illness. Women are about twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, but men report higher rates of anger attacks, according to separate research. One possible explanation is that admission of emotional weakness in men is seen as socially unacceptable.

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9. You snore: Heart disease

Snoring is a common sign of sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing often stops during sleep. Its connection to heart disease is still disputed, but there is plenty of research supporting the theory. A 2013 study found that snoring can cause thickening and abnormalities in the carotid artery, a major blood vessel in the neck supplying blood to the brain, neck, and face.

Snoring may even present a bigger risk than being overweight, smoking, and high cholesterol for thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery. Separate research shows snoring has been linked to cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, hypertension, and heart attack.

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10. You eat but you’re always hungry: Diabetes

To get the energy you need, the body converts food into glucose. Different body cells then use insulin, a hormone, to convert the glucose to energy. Depending on the type of diabetes, your body may not produce enough insulin or the cells may not use it well. Either way, the result is an accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream as less glucose is converted to energy. The decrease in energy, which makes you feel more tired than usual, tends to cause hunger. However, eating doesn’t solve the problem, because no matter how much you eat, the glucose doesn’t get converted and you only end up with even higher blood sugar levels.