Home / Books / Book Reviews / Book Review: Body Signs: From Warning Signs to False Alarms…How to Be Your Own Diagnostic Detective by Joan Liebmann-Smith, Ph.D. and Jacqueline Nardi Egan.

Book Review: Body Signs: From Warning Signs to False Alarms…How to Be Your Own Diagnostic Detective by Joan Liebmann-Smith, Ph.D. and Jacqueline Nardi Egan.

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Body Signs is reference book of normal physiological functioning and physical indicators of illness for adults. The authors differentiate between a “symptom” (like pain) that only the patient can describe and “signs” (like dry brittle hair and nails) that can be observed by others and are objective indicators that something may be wrong.

In addition to covering large portions of the body, this book has editorial commentary under the headings “Healthy Signs, Warning Signs, Danger Signs, Signs of the Times (anecdotes), Speaking of Signs (famous quotes), Significant Facts, and Stop Signs (suggestions to prevent problems).” Some examples chosen from throughout the book are below:

Healthy Signs: A healthy adult’s nails grow at a constant, albeit slow, rate – about 1/8 of an inch a month.

Warning Signs: A 40-inch waistline in men and a 35-inch waist in women places them at increased risk of heart disease. And women with a 36-inch or larger waist are at increased risk of gallstones.

Danger Signs: If you have a watery discharge [from your nose] after a head trauma, call your doctor immediately. It could be a sign of skull fracture.

Signs of the Times: In the past, the term hystericus was used to describe disorders that primarily affected women and were thought to be of psychological origin.

Speaking of Signs: A poem begins with a lump in the throat. – Robert Frost

Significant Facts: The first-ever survey on nose picking was conducted in Wisconsin in 1991.

Stop Signs: The Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have devised a single question to determine which patients are likely to have restless leg syndrome: “When you try to relax in the evening or sleep at night, do you have unpleasant, restless feelings in your legs that can be relieved by walking or movement?” If you answer yes, you probably have this annoying condition.

I thought this was a fun book to read. It would not be my reference guide if I truly felt that something were wrong with me. However, the little anecdotes and commentary that are written next to the signs and symptoms are worth the read. For example, I had no idea that one day you could awaken with a foreign accent (or more than one!) and it actually has a name: foreign accent/language syndrome.

Another fact I did not know is the following method for stopping hiccups. In the late 1980s, Dr. Fesmire proved that digital rectal massage could stimulate the vagus nerve and stop someone’s hiccups. I’ll take the hiccups, but thanks.

If you like little known facts and like a fast-paced book that you can pick up from time to time and start reading anywhere within, this is the book for you. If you are looking for a serious medical reference guide, I would not use this book.

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About Alexandria Jackson