Scary Symptoms That Are (Really!) No Big Deal

Chris Fanning
Our bodies have an amazing capacity to freak us out. Maybe its a twitch that youre sure means multiple sclerosis. Or a little mark that must be cancer. You could Google symptoms for days—and now your pulse is racing, so you can look that up, too. Unless you have a heart attack first...Whoa! Step away from the keyboard. Most twitches, bumps, and pops are actually harmless. Heres when to see a doctor—and when to just relax.

Scary symptom: Skin tags

Whats up with that?
These floppy little nodules, which are usually flesh-toned but occasionally darker, typically develop in spots where skin rubs against skin or clothing, like under the arms, around the neck, under the breasts, or even on the eyelids. Its not entirely clear why some people are more prone to them than others, although they may run in families. The good news is, theyre virtually never cancerous and can be easily removed by a dermatologist.

See your doctor find a growth that is hard, rough, or darker or redder than flesh-toned. It could be a wart, a form of keratosis, or possibly even skin cancer.

Scary symptom: Red skin spots

Whats up with that?
Those little, round, bright-red spots and bumps on your skin (more common if your complexion is fair and youre over 40) are likely superficial blood vessels that havent been reabsorbed into the skin. “Its normal,” says David Bank, MD, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, New York. “The body naturally makes new blood vessels and takes others away.

But as we age, more blood vessels are made than absorbed, and thats when we get these little red spots.” Technically, theyre known as cherry hemangiomas or angiomas, and theyre nothing to worry about, Dr. Bank confirms.

See your doctor want to have them removed (a dermatologist can do this with laser treatments). But if you find a spot thats asymmetrical; is changing in size, shape, or color; begins itching or bleeding; or looks totally different from any other spot on your body, consult a dermatologist to make sure its not cancerous.

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Norine Dworkin-McDaniel
Last Updated: October 05, 2010

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