Don’t ignore these unusual signs of potentially serious conditions

Posted on 18 April 2019

Fatty deposits around your eyes? Skin discolouration? Pale nails? Here are a few symptoms you should get checked out – even if they seem insignificant.

Many symptoms have been linked to seemingly unrelated conditions. Consider the study that found a correlation between gum disease (the plaque on your gums) and heart disease (plaque in your arteries). Dr Jaco-Niel de Villiers, a GP at Intercare Panorama, highlights a few more.



“I always look out for xanthomas which are a sign of cholesterol – an otherwise invisible condition of the blood,” says Dr de Villiers. Xanthomas, he explains, are yellow or orange deposits, or “cholesterol aggregations”, under the skin of your eyelids. Cholesterol can also form deposits around the cornea and appear as a silvery blue ring or arc around the outside of your eye that does not affect your vision.


Are you genetically predisposed to have high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol?


Acanthosis nigricans

“[This] is a darkening of the skin around the base of the neck and it points to diabetes.” Even without further tests, Dr de Villiers says this symptom could indicate diabetes as a concern.

This dark, velvety discoloration can also occur in other body folds such as your armpits and groin and typically affects people who are obese. Children who develop acanthosis nigricans are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

This condition may, in rare cases, be a warning sign of a cancerous tumour in an internal organ, such as the stomach or liver. Tests should be done to eliminate diabetes and other conditions such as cancers, obesity or insulin resistance.

No specific treatment is available but treating the underlying conditions may restore normal colour and texture to affected areas.


Can you be screened for prediabetes?


A change in nail colour or condition

Your nails can point to many conditions including those linked to kidney, liver and heart disease. There are various presentations, from white nails to spoon-shaped nails and more. “Usually, a nail that doesn’t look healthy can have a myriad of conditions linked to it,” says Dr de Villiers.


Dr. de Villiers further mentions some less common signs:

  • A pale or white stool which may be a sign of gall bladder problems.
  • “Bulging or prominent eyes are present in someone with a thyroid condition called Grave’s disease which causes hyperthyroidism.
  • A bronze complexion without sun tanning may be linked to bronze diabetes (when the body absorbs excess iron) or Addisons disease which occurs when the secretion of the corticosteroid hormones (produced by the adrenal glands) falls below your body’s requirements.



Published in Cancer

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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