10 Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

When it comes to your health, denial can be deadly

Most of us recognize the signs of a heart attack and the life-and-death stakes of reacting quickly.

And while few would blithely ignore such symptoms as chronic chest pain or shortness of breath, we also need to pay attention to the more subtle signs our bodies give us that something could be wrong.

When denial can be deadly

Here are 10 symptoms you ignore at your own peril, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Unexplained weight loss. While for many of us, weight loss isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you’re losing excessive weight without intending to do so, it’s time to consult your physician. (Unintentional excessive weight loss is considered to be 5 per cent of your weight within one month and/or 10 per cent of your weight within six to 12 months.) Unexplained weight loss could be caused by an overactive thyroid, depression, liver disease, cancer, or disorders that interfere with how well your body absorbs nutrients.

Persistent fever. A persistent low-grade fever — over 38 C or 100.4 F — could signal hidden infections ranging from a urinary tract infection to tuberculosis. It could, however, also be linked to malignant conditions such as lymphomas. Note: If you have an immune system problem or take immune-suppressing drugs, fever may not be a reliable warning sign. Also fever can be a reaction to certain treatments or medications, such as chemotherapy for cancer.

Shortness of breath. If you’re feeling short of breath, and it’s beyond the usual stuffy nose or feeling winded from exercise, this could point to an underlying health problem. Causes for breathlessness could include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, asthma, heart problems, anxiety, panic attacks, pneumonia, a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension.

Note: Seek immediate medical attention if you begin wheezing or feel breathless with or without exertion or when reclining.

Unexplained changes in bowel habits. Changes in bowel habits may indicate a bacterial infection such as campylobacter or salmonella, or a viral or parasitic infection. Other possible causes are inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

Experts recommend seeing your doctor if you have any of the following:

– Severe diarrhea lasting more than two days
– Mild diarrhea lasting a week
– Constipation that lasts for more than two weeks
– Unexplained urges to have a bowel movement
– Bloody diarrhea
– Black or tarry-colored stools

Mental status changes. Significant changes in thinking or behaviour can be caused by infection, head injury, stroke and low blood pressure. They can also be a result of medications, especially those you’ve only recently started taking. See your doctor if any of the following occur:

– Sudden or gradual confused thinking
– Disorientation
– Sudden aggressive behavior
– Hallucinations in someone who has never had them

New or more severe headaches (especially if you’re over age 50). A sudden or serious headache can be caused by stroke, blood vessel inflammation (arteritis), meningitis, brain tumor, aneurysm or bleeding on the brain after head trauma. Be particularly aware of a headache accompanied by fever, stiff neck, rash, mental confusion, seizures, vision changes, speaking difficulties and scalp tenderness or pain with chewing.

Short-term loss of vision, speaking or movement control. These are signs of a possible stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) — so minutes count. Seek immediate emergency medical care if you have any of the following:

– Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of your body
– Sudden dimness, blurring or loss of vision
– Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech
– A thunderclap headache (a severe headache that strikes like a clap of thunder)
– Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a fall

Flashes of light. The sudden sensation of flashing lights may signal the beginning of retinal detachment. To save vision in the affected eye, seek immediate medical care.

Feeling full after eating very little. Feeling full sooner than usual? If you’re full after eating little food and have persistent nausea and vomiting that last more than a week, consult with your doctor. There are many possible causes, including pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and ovarian cancer.

Hot, red or swollen joint. These could be caused by a joint infection, which requires emergency care to save the joint and keep bacteria from spreading elsewhere. Other possible causes include gout or certain types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Don’t be alarmed, just aware

Many signs and symptoms are caused by conditions that aren’t chronic, but very treatable — but the adage ‘better safe than sorry’ certainly applies with it comes to your health. The bottom line: don’t ignore any symptoms or concerns, but consult with your doctor.

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