If you're conscientious about your health, you probably see your doctor for an annual physical...or perhaps even more often if you have a chronic condition or get sick.
But if you'd like to keep tabs on your health between your doctor visits, there's an easy, do-it-yourself test that can give you valuable information about your body.
Here's a self-test for diabetes-repeat it once every few months, and keep track of the results. See your doctor if you don't ''pass" this ''Pencil Test"... *
Why this test? It checks the nerve function in your feet-if abnormal, this could indicate diabetes, certain types of infections or autoimmune disease.
The prop you'll need: A pencil that is freshly sharpened at one end with a flat eraser on the other end... and a friend to help.
*This self-test is not a substitute for a thorough physical exam from your doctor. Use it only as a way to identify potential problem areas to discuss with your physician.
What to do: Sit down so that all sides of your bare feet are accessible. Close your eyes, and keep them closed throughout the test.
Have your friend lightly touch your foot with either the sharp end or the eraser end of the pencil. With each touch, say which end of the pencil you think was used.
Ask your friend to repeat the test in at least three different locations on the tops and bottoms of both feet (12 locations total). Have your friend keep track of your right and wrong answers.
Watch out: Most people can easily tell the difference between "sharp" and "dull" sensations on their sensitive feet. If you give the wrong answer for more than two or three locations on your feet, have your doctor repeat the test to determine whether you have nerve damage (neuropathy).
Beware: Neuropathy is a common sign of diabetes... certain autoimmune disorders, including lupus and Sjogren's syndrome... infections, such as Lyme disease, shingles or hepatitis C... or excessive exposure to toxins, such as pesticides or heavy metals (mercury or lead).