Health/Medical Problems No One Wants to Receive as a Holiday Gift


1. Borborygmi - Tummy sounds. Like it or not, almost everyone’s stomach will growl or gurgle on occasion, some more often than others, some more loudly than others. As a rule, such noises are caused by the human digestive process in which food is propelled through the digestive system via a series of muscular and intestinal contractions. On the other hand, this generally unwanted symphony of belly sounds can occur at anytime - whether the stomach is full.

2. Hyperhydrosis - Overactive sweat glands. Although almost all people sweat, when, where, and how much can vary from person to person. Unfortunately, excessive perspiring can lead, in some instances, to an abnormal change in body odor. More often than not, certain steps can be undertaken to help prevent such an unwanted assault on the public’s olfactory senses, including bathing regularly, wearing clean clothes, using antiperspirants, and avoiding foods with strong odors (e.g., garlic, onions).

3. Eructation - Belching or burping. In reality, belching and burping are natural human conditions. It is normal, for example, for a person to "release air" 6 to 20 times a day, an action that occasionally can be embarrassing or annoying. Individuals who want to reduce the number of times that they belch or burp can help themselves in that regard by watching what they eat or drink.

4. Bromhidrosis - Foot odor. The stench that sometimes affects human feet is typically the result of sweat and bacteria that are trapped inside of enclosed toe shoes. As such, a host of steps can help prevent the occurrence of foot odor, including washing the feet regularly, wearing shoes made from breathable material, wearing socks that fit and are made of 100% cotton and changing them regularly, and using foot powders.

5. Halitosis - Bad breath. The extent of the unpleasant odors that accompany the breath of some individuals tends to vary, depending on the source or the underlying cause of the bad breath. Although a chronic cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene, a number of other factors also can lead to this loathsome condition, including periodontal gum disease, postnasal drip, and dry mouth. Among the activities that can help prevent halitosis are better oral hygiene (brushing, flossing, and mouthwash), avoiding certain foods, and targeted dental treatments.

6. Hypertrichosis - Abnormal hair density and length. Individuals of different ethnic backgrounds, ages, and sex often exhibit substantial differences in hair growth patterns on their bodies. What is normal for one person may be considered abnormal for another. On the other hand, the existence of excessive body hair can be both embarrassing and troubling for individuals who believe it disfigures their appearance.

7. Gingivitis - Inflammation of the gums. An early stage of a more serious form of gum disease (periodontitis), gingivitis is characterized by red and swollen gums that often bleed when the teeth are being brushed. If left untreated, this condition can lead to gum infection and, in more serious cases, tooth loss. The primary cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene.

8. Dysuria - Painful urination. A fairly common problem, experiencing pain when urinating may be felt either right at the point the urine leaves the body or inside the body (behind the pubic bone or in the bladder or prostate). More often than not, painful urination is caused by a urinary tract infection (particularly in women) or by urethritis and certain conditions of the prostate (in men). The form of treatment for this problem depends on what is causing the pain.

9. Paronychia - Nail infection. The most common symptoms of this problem are swelling, redness, the accumulation of pus under the skin (i.e., an abscess has formed), and tenderness and pain upon touching. As a rule, a paronychia is caused either by bacteria entering the skin around a nail that has been damaged by trauma or by fungus.

10. Furuncle - A skin infection involving an entire hair follicle and adjacent skin tissue, also known as a boil. Starting in a hair follicle or oil gland, a boil initially entails the skin turning red in the area of the infection. Subsequently, it may feel somewhat like a cyst or a water-filled lump. As a rule, self-care treatment of boils involves applying a warm compress to them and then soaking them in warm water. When the boil starts to drain, it should be washed with an antibacterial soap. If the boil doesn’t heal, a physician should be consulted.

James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.

Copyright 2010 by the American College of Sports Medicine.

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