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Face Symptoms - What Looking in the Mirror Can Tell You About Your Health

Updated on September 28, 2012

Health or illness can be found in the mirror

Health problems can be seen in the mirror, but maybe not as dramatically as this!
Health problems can be seen in the mirror, but maybe not as dramatically as this! | Source

Your face can tell you about an amazing number of health problems

We can detect a wide variety of health conditions by looking at our own faces in the mirror. I'll discuss how to spot anemia, high cholesterol, low magnesium and low B12, as well as possible problems with various organs and glands. As types of rashes are a topic all by themselves, I don't cover those here. However, I do cover a few causes of adult acne, and several other important health issues that you can discover simply by looking into the mirror.

A common condition that you can see in the mirror is anemia, or iron deficiency. If you pull down your lower eyelid, and the inside is pale, you should have your iron level checked. Facial symptoms can include:

1. inside of lower eyelid is pale
2. pale lips and skin
3. cracks at the corners of the lips

You will also probably have fatigue, with possible insomnia and leg cramps. An odd symptom that some people also have with anemia is that they like to eat a lot of ice or even other that things we don't normally eat, such as paper.

When you have anemia, it means that your blood isn't transporting the iron your body needs to keep you healthy. There can be a variety of causes. This condition is most common in women who are still having their periods, especially if those periods are heavy.

However, women who are past menopause and men can also be anemic. Anemia can sometimes indicate another serious health condition, such as undetected internal bleeding, so neither women nor men should ignore it.

In some types of anemia, the white of the eyes and the skin may have a slight yellowish cast. However, if the whites of your eyes have turned bright yellow, you need to see a doctor right away. This symptom indicates a different and very serious problem, that your liver function is badly impaired. Of course, when this happens, your skin will also have a yellow tone, but that is not as easily seen as it is in the whites of your eyes.

Have you ever wondered why your eyelid sometimes twitches? The condition actually has a name, myokymia. Many of us have it, and we don't seem to know what causes it.

The two most common causes of eyelid twitching are stress and lack of magnesium. If you're plagued by a twitching eyelid, try supplementing with magnesium to see if it solves the problem. Magnesium is essential for many bodily functions, and one is proper muscle action.

Another, much more rare, cause is multiple sclerosis. Of course, if you had that, you would have many other symptoms.

If you have an odd white ring around the colored part of your eye, that ring is made of cholesterol. You should get your cholesterol levels checked.

How to treat a sty in your eye

Cold sores can be easily shared

A cold sore is a painful nuisance and is also very contagious.
A cold sore is a painful nuisance and is also very contagious. | Source

From prematurely graying hair to adult acne, your symptoms talk to you in the mirror

Prematurely graying hair is an inherited trait in some families. However, if your family doesn't tend to gray early, your premature graying could be a symptom of B12 deficiency. If your B12 level is low enough to start prematurely graying your hair, you would also probably have fatigue and chronic diarrhea.

Dark circles under the eyes may very well indicate allergies. You can have this symptom without the swelling eyes, itchiness or runny nose that you would normally associate with allergies.

If your lips take on a bluish tone and you haven't done anything that would account for it, such as eating candy or blueberries, this color change is a sign of serious health problems with either your heart or your lungs. You should seek medical attention right away. It means that your blood is not carrying life-giving oxygen around your body.

Do you have adult acne? If so, especially if the outbreaks are along the jaw line or around the chin area, this may be accompanying irritable bowel syndrome. Or, if you're a woman, you may have cysts on your ovaries (polycystic ovary syndrome), or other possible hormonal imbalances. These conditions show up on the face with forms of acne.

If you have a problem with constipation and/or diarrhea (your digestion can even fluctuate between the two), and you also have acne, especially acne around the chin area or along the jaw line, the acne could actually be DH blisters. You can tell the difference, because they don't usually form a whitehead. They either act like a blister, with a clear discharge if they're broken, or, if they're deeper under more layers of the skin, they are painful and may itch, but never come to a "head". This means that you are gluten intolerant, whether or not lab results show that you have celiac disease.

Easily one percent of the population in the U.S. has celiac disease, and that percentage increases for people of Irish or Scottish descent. Some doctors are so lacking in education about the connection between DH blisters and celiac disease, that they will diagnose the blisters, but not know to have the patient eliminate gluten-bearing grains from his or her diet.

If you have this problem and the celiac testing was done, but you showed no antibodies, you should start the celiac diet anyway. The only available gluten antibody test available is notoriously lacking in sensitivity to the antibodies. Also, the test is often not properly performed by many labs. During a study, proven celiac blood samples were sent around the U.S. to medical labs. Over half of them returned a test result of zero on this proven positive sample.

In hypothyroidism the output of thyroid hormone is too low

The thyroid gland is located in the throat
The thyroid gland is located in the throat | Source

You can even see symptoms of low thyroid hormone in the mirror

Another common condition that we can sometimes see in the mirror is an under-active thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism. Low thyroid hormone levels are very common, especially in women. It's more common in women from their mid-30's and in men from their mid-50's. However, it's also not uncommon in younger people.

You may easily have a low thyroid hormone level without the following symptoms, but if you see these in the mirror, have your thyroid hormone level checked.

1. Brittle, thinning hair.
2. Loss or thinning of the outer third of your eyebrows
3. Puffy cheeks and/or eyes.
4. Dry skin
5. Pale lips

If you see some or all of these symptoms, you are probably also feeling constant fatigue or what you might think of an inability to get motivated. You may also, oddly enough, have trouble sleeping. Other possible symptoms include lack of concentration, increased hunger and weight gain.

Even if you, as either a woman or man in middle age think that you are losing your hair due to what's called "male pattern baldness", you should have a thyroid test that includes a TSH to eliminate an under-active thyroid gland as a contributing cause of hair loss. (If your doctor orders a thyroid test, and you are not required to fast before the test, the TSH test is not being included, and you'll need to specifically request that it be included. It is discussed below.)

My advice to all women, especially women over the age of 35, and to men, especially over the age of 55, is to get your thyroid hormone checked with every annual exam. If your doctor has checked your thyroid hormone levels, and has either given you a prescription for thyroid hormone, or has told you that your thyroid is fine, if you're still tired, hungry and/or having trouble concentrating, request the specific results of your lab test from your doctor's office. Look for the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level. If your level is over 2, you need more thyroid hormone replacement. A Harvard study several years ago showed that the TSH level for normal, healthy people is between 1 and 2. However, many doctors and laboratories label the TSH level as normal when it's as high as 4. (The higher the TSH level, the lower your thyroid hormone level, and the harder your body is working trying to stimulate the thyroid to produce more.)

You now have some good markers for looking in the mirror. If you can't afford to go to a doctor for any of these conditions, check your local community hospital for charity care, or see if there are any community programs in the area. If neither of those are helpful, start calling doctors in the area to see if any will accept you as a pro bono patient, or if any will barter for services. Are you a writer, an artist, or do you make beautiful quilts? Do you raise excellent houseplants and could maintain them in the doctor's office until they are used to caring for them? Do you have skills at giving parties or doing home repairs? Think of your talents and try to barter.

In some of the conditions above, you can investigate further on the internet and take supplements if you think that you are lacking in a vitamin or mineral. The B vitamins can be supplemented, because they are water soluble and excess will be eliminated by your kidneys. However, don't be excessive in any of the supplements you take.

(Oh, while I have a degree in health studies, I'm not a doctor, so please accept this information as one person communicating with another, not as a medical professional giving you instructions.)


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    • Hacicu Bogdan profile image

      Hacicu Bogdan 

      17 months ago from Cluj-Napoca, Romania

      Appreciate you took the time to inform us about these health wrecking conditions.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      4 years ago from Oregon

      A low TSH means that you have too much thyroid hormone. I'd have that looked at. Sorry to take so long in getting back to you. Have started a new job and it's interesting, but a little overwhelming at times.

    • PaulaJAllard profile image


      5 years ago from Milton Keynes

      Great hub ! My mums hands started shaking last year , i knew it wasn't right and then she went into hospital for a huge operation. On leaving hospital in her notes were hyperthyroidism ..... shes 75 years old , shes probably had it for years and didn't get diagnosed ! She had her operation in a specialist hospital miles from where we live ......... they obviously check for more things in blood tests or know the signs well !

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      So at TSH level of 0.619 or 0.972 ate too low?! Should I be getting treated?

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Tastiger04, thank you for your kind comment. I'm glad the hub was useful to you.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, Marion. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • tastiger04 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting and informative. I did not know a lot of these things! Voted up!

    • marion langley profile image

      marion langley 

      7 years ago from The Study

      I see it! I see it! Anemic...and when I was preggo I craved brown sugar and chewed ice constantly so yeah I believe it. Thanks for writing.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, larakern. I was fascinated by this when I did research about it.

    • larakern profile image


      7 years ago from Georgia

      This is a very interesting hub! I knew that you could tell a lot about a person's health by looking at their nails but I had no idea you could do that with the face as well. The body is an amazing thing that has its own little ways of telling us when something is wrong. Amazing hub! Voted up.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, epbooks.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Very informative hub. Many times we don't know what our bodies are lacking, such as magnesium or even Vitamin D. Good idea to get those levels checked every now and then. Thanks for posting -very helpful! Voted up.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, Vivian, for reading and commenting.

    • Vivian-tmt-hnp profile image


      7 years ago from USA.

      3:14pm Thursday 6 June 2013

      Thank for your value writing.


    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      bedbugabscond, that's terrible! Does that mean you can't eat it either? Do you plan to move to a less green place?

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Collins 

      7 years ago from United States

      I have eternal dark circles under my eyes. The doctors went on a great search and did indeed find I had allergies. The bad news is that I am allergic to chlorophyll. I live in Ohio where we are surrounded by all that is green.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks for stopping by and reading, mercuryservices. I'm glad you liked it.

    • mercuryservices profile image

      Alex Munkachy 

      7 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      Very informative self diagnostic tips. Thanks!

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for sharing. Especially thanks for stopping by!

    • prettynutjob30 profile image


      7 years ago from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet.

      Great, informative hub, voted up, more and shared. I always heard those little white bumps people get under their eyes is caused by high cholesterol.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      A great compliment, fastfreta. I have a degree in health studies and was on my way to an MPH. I like to write about health issues and maintaining health.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Funny, before I got to the end of the hub, I was wondering if you were a doctor. By the way I did run to the mirror and looked at my eyelids. Whew, I'm alright, LOL! Thanks so much for this very informative hub, looking forward to reading more.

      Voted up, useful, interesting. Shared with my followers.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, FlourishAnyway. There is so much that we can see about our own health by looking at ourselves, if we just know what to look for.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Very informative. Now I'm going to be looking closer not only at myself but also parents and other loved ones for clues.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Stacie.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      7 years ago

      I found the information about the eyes especially fascinating. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Isn't that the truth, Robie? I remember a lot more looking at face, throat and hands by my family doctor when I was a child. Thanks for stopping by and for the vote up.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 

      7 years ago from Ohio

      This great hub reminded me of the good old family DRs that just looking at patients were able to come to a pretty good diagnosis. Great guide for signs to look for, in ourselves but also in loved ones. voted up

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, MIchele. You've also just added to the information about face symptoms.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      7 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      This is a great hub, with a lot of very good information. I have epilepsy, and when I am getting close to a seizure the skin under my eyes starts to move a lot. Little bumps here and there. Then I know I need to take my meds. This started a long time ago, I went to a doctor because it was so irritating, after a few tests I had a brain scan and was diagnosed. That was over 20 years ago. Your eyes can tell you a lot about what is going on in your body.

      Voted up.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      I'm glad to give you a reason to stare at yourself in the mirror, Dan. Thank you for stopping by, and for your vote and kind comment.

    • Dan Barfield profile image

      Dan Barfield 

      7 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Voted up! This is a fascinating hub full of interesting info. It's also given me an excuse to go stare at myself in the mirror, so if you'll just excuse me...

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      8 years ago from Oregon

      I'm excited for the future in health, Mombaxxx1. I think that as we use the internet for health answers, and learn more about being proactive, we will naturally be healthier. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon

      An interesting article. Taking responsibility for our health and helping our physicians by asking the right questions will keep us living longer lives, hopefully, with fewer problems. Thanks.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      8 years ago from Oregon

      That's the truth! We are no more informed than ever before, and we can take advantage of it by doing our own health maintenance. Thanks for your vote of confidence, sandrabusby.

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 

      8 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      Thanks, Healthh Pursuits, this was a very informative hub. We can all take more responsibility for our health by knowing some of the indicators you mention. Voted up and shared.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile imageAUTHOR

      Karla Iverson 

      8 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, Becky. I thought about putting that in, but was going for symptoms that have fewer possible causes. Bulging eyes have several possible causes, though hyperthyroidism is one of the main ones. To see some other possible causes of bulging eyes, go to

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      8 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      One of the signs of hyperthyroidism that you missed is bulging eyes. If they have not always looked like they are bulging out of your head, you need to get your thyroid checked. That is how I finally got mine diagnosed. My family suddenly started commenting on my bug eyes. My hands shook and I felt like a nervous wreck. My thyroid is now dead and I take thyroid replacement daily. I now have all the symptoms of hypothyroid when I do not take my pills as I am supposed to.


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