Self Exams You Aren't Doing (But Should Be)

Three DIY health checks to help you catch potential problems early.

Self Health Exams
Photo: Thinkstock

Lymph node check

Take the pads of your fingers and gently roll them over your neck feeling for little nodules. Do the same in your armpits (press a little harder) and groin. You may feel no bumps, or small, soft nodules that are freely mobile and don’t hurt much when pressed. Both are OK. But visit a doctor if you notice any bumps that are:

  • over 1.5cm in diameter
  • fixed in place
  • hard or rubbery
  • underneath red or tender skin

Most inflamed lymph nodes are not serious. Occasionally, though, lymph nodes that are hard or swollen may indicate conditions like leukaemia or lymphoma.

Root canal predictor

If you’ve been having tooth pain, use this test to determine whether you might need a root canal. Hold some iced water in your mouth for a few seconds. Wait a bit: then, tap gently on each of your teeth with the underside of a spoon. Does the cold or pressure cause more sensitivity or pain in one specific tooth? If so, check with your dentist.

Macular degeneration detector

Print out an Amsler grid, which looks like a piece of graph paper with a dot in the centre. Hold the paper at the same distance you would for reading (wear glasses if you normally do), and focus on the dot while you cover one eye. Repeat with the other eye. You should see the entire grid with straight lines, right angles, and visible borders. If anything seems distorted, mark it on the page and take it to your eye doctor. Amsler grids can help flag the first signs of macular degeneration, a cause of vision loss in older adults.

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