Medical advice from the
Expert – a guide to prevent
any sudden serious illness
before it is too late for treatment.
Prevention is better than cure.
10 symptoms not to ignore
You already know that the
obvious signs and symptoms
— chest pain, abdominal pain or unexplained bleeding
— are generally good reason to seek immediate medical
care. But, the not-so-obvious symptoms may leave you
questioning whether you need to see a doctor.
Here's a list of warning
symptoms worth reading.
You may find some of the symptoms surprising.
But, be aware of the significance of these symptoms
and when it's important to seek timely medical care.
It could make a difference in your quality of life and
may even save your life.
Don't ignore these symptoms
Don't ignore the following 10
signs and symptoms
— some of which are not obviously alarming. But,
trust that your body informs you of its needs.
While some messages are more urgent than
others, milder but persistent symptoms may
also signal trouble.
1. Unexplained weight loss
If you find you're losing
excessive weight without intending
to do so, see your doctor. Unintentional excessive weight
loss is considered to be a loss of more than:
· 5 percent of your weight within one month
· 10 percent of your weight within six to 12 months
An unexplained drop in weight
could be caused by a number
of conditions, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism),
depression, liver disease, cancer or other non-cancerous
disorders, or disorders that interfere with how well your
body absorbs nutrients (malabsorption disorders).
2. Persistent fever
If you have a normal immune
system and you're not
undergoing treatment, such as chemotherapy for cancer,
a persistent low-grade fever — over 100.4 F — should be
checked if it lasts for a week or more. If you have a fever
with shaking chills, or a high fever — greater than 103 F
— or if you're otherwise severely ill, see your doctor as
soon as possible.
If you have an immune system
problem or take immune
-suppressing drugs, fever may not be a reliable warning
sign and your primary doctor or oncologist can tell you
what would signal a need for an evaluation.
Persistent fever can signal
hidden infections, which could
be anything from a urinary tract infection to tuberculosis.
At other times, malignant conditions — such as lymphomas
— cause prolonged or persistent fevers, as can some
medications and conditions, and reactions to certain drugs.
Fever is common with treatable
infections, such as urinary
tract infections. But if a low-grade fever persists for more
than two weeks, check with your doctor. Some underlying
cancers can cause prolonged, persistent fever, as can
tuberculosis and other disorders.
3. Shortness of breath
Feeling short of breath —
beyond the typical stuffy nose
or shortness of breath from exercise — could signal an
underlying health problem. If you ever find that you're unable
to get your breath or that you're gasping for air or wheezing,
seek emergency medical care. Feeling breathless with or
without exertion or when reclining also is a symptom that
needs to be medically evaluated without delay.
Causes for breathlessness may
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
4. Unexplained changes in bowel habits
See 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
Changes in bowel habits may
signal a bacterial infection
— such as campylobacter or salmonella — or a viral or
parasitic infection. Among other possible causes are
inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
5. Mental status changes
Immediate medical evaluation is
warranted if any of
the following occur:
· Sudden or gradual confused thinking
· Sudden aggressive behavior
· Hallucinations in someone who has never had them
Changes in behavior or thinking
may be due to infection,
head injury, stroke, low blood sugar or even medications,
especially ones you've recently started taking.
6. New or more
(especially if you're over age 50)
Seek prompt medical attention if you experience:
A sudden and
severe headache, often called a
thunderclap headache, because it comes on suddenly
like a clap of thunder.
accompanied by a fever, stiff neck,
rash, mental confusion, seizures, vision changes, weakness,
numbness, speaking difficulties, scalp tenderness or pain
· A headache that begins or worsens after a head injury.
These headache symptoms may be
caused by stroke, blood
vessel inflammation (arteritis), meningitis, brain tumor,
aneurysm or bleeding on the brain after head trauma.
loss of vision, speaking or
If you have these signs and
symptoms, minutes count.
These are signs and symptoms of a possible stroke or
transient ischemic attack (TIA). Seek immediate emergency
medical care if you have any of the following:
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
· A thunderclap headache
· Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a fall
8. Flashes of light
The sudden sensation of
flashing lights may signal the
beginning of retinal detachment. Immediate medical care
may be needed to save vision in the affected eye.
9. Feeling full after eating very little
Feeling full sooner than normal
after eating and having
persistent nausea and vomiting that last more than a
week are warning signs that should be checked by your
doctor. There are many possible causes, including
pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and ovarian cancer.
10. Hot, red or swollen joint
These warning signs may occur
with a joint infection,
which requires emergency care to save the joint and
keep bacteria from spreading elsewhere. Other causes
may include gout or certain types of arthritis such as