Men’s health: Be prepared

While most serious health problems announce themselves in dramatic ways such as pain, fever, nausea, dizziness and fainting, others express themselves in ways that seem so common, you may be tempted to write them off as insignificant. However, it’s important for you to know that some seemingly small signs should not be ignored. They can be early indications of major problems like high blood pressure, arthritis or even cancer. These are health problems that require a doctor’s attention to stop them from getting worse and doing permanent damage. Here are just a few examples:

While a random nosebleed could be due to an insignificant cause such as a dry environment, violent sneezing or allergies, it could also be an early warning sign of high blood pressure. The nose is full of small blood vessels, which have tiny cracks and high blood pressure can push blood out of them. High blood pressure affects 8% of men between 20 and 34 and needs to be brought under control to stop it causing later problems like heart disease, stroke or erectile dysfunction

If you haven’t had your blood pressure measured recently, an unexplained nosebleed should trigger you to get it checked. Your doctor can do this or some pharmacies provide on-site blood pressure testing machines. If your blood pressure is over 140/90, it requires immediate attention from a doctor. If your reading is between 120/80 and 139/89, high blood pressure could be developing and you should still talk to your doctor. High blood pressure can be controlled with a combination of diet, exercise and, if those don’t work, medication.

Sore Knees
Aches, pains and twinges, especially after exercise, are normal, but prolonged soreness (longer than 2 hours) could be a sign of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage, the material that protects the ends of bones. When bits of cartilage break off, pain and swelling may occur in the affected joint.

First, try to modify your exercise routine to take the stress off your knees, but if the trouble persists for longer than 3 months, you should tell your physician you are concerned about osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by x-ray. There is no cure, but pain and swelling can be managed with painkillers like ASA and ibuprofen. Maintaining a healthy weight can also take strain off painful knees.

Erectile Dysfunction
While the inability to achieve and sustain an erection is annoying and embarrassing, it could also signal the presence of life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus. Erection depends on two mechanisms: nerve signaling from the brain and blood flow to the penis. Both high blood pressure and diabetes damage blood vessels. This reduces blood flow to all parts of the body, including the penis. Due to the smaller blood vessels in the penis, the effects of damaged circulation are often experienced first as erectile dysfunction. Diabetes mellitus may damage the nervous system, which also takes its toll on erectile function. If you are experiencing erectile difficulties, talk to your doctor. Erectile dysfunction can often be easily treated and if you do have diabetes or high blood pressure, treating them could save your life.

Sore Throat
This could be a cold, which will go away by itself or it could be strep throat, which won’t. Strep throat is caused by a Group A streptococcus bacteria and needs to be treated with a course of antibiotic. If you have a persistent sore throat, you should visit your doctor, particularly if it is accompanied by fever, swollen glands and a sore stomach.

A pimple could just be a zit, which will disappear after a few days, but it could also be a form of skin cancer called basal-cell carcinoma. This kind of tumor has a pearly appearance and when light is shone on it, tiny blood vessels can be seen entering at the base.

If you have a pimple that won’t go away, have it examined by a dermatologist. The good news is basal-cell carcinoma is slow growing and is 95% treatable when it’s caught early. Tips to reduce the likelihood of skin cancer include avoiding the sun and liberally applying sunscreen with an SPF over 30.

Leg Pain
If you experience leg pain, especially during exercise, it could be an early sign of circulatory blockage – when blood vessel interiors develop plaque (cause by high cholesterol levels), which impedes blood flow. When blood vessels in the legs start to clog up, reduced blood flow means the leg muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen. The medical term for clogged leg vessels is peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This condition can be treated with medication – a statin to lower harmful cholesterol level and drugs to improve blood flow.

1. Spiker, Ted. Six Health Threats You Can’t Ignore. As accessed September 15, 2006 from 171;6(part1):2341-2345
2. Impotence (erectile dysfunction) As accessed from

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the opinion of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.