(BlackDoctor.org) — We often experience symptoms that we ignore, but shouldn’t. Why? Perhaps because we’ve grown up in an era that insists that you do not go to the doctor unless you’ve just about lost an arm. Even then, your momma might tell you to just walk it off. Or that there’s only so much that the doctor can really do, anyway. As tough and as strong as we perceive ourselves to be, there are some symptoms that we just can’t afford to ignore. Ever.
Here’s a list of warning symptoms worth remembering. If you suffer from any of these, seeking immediate attention could do more than just make a difference in the quality of your life – it may save your life!
1. Shortness of Breath
Risk: Blood Clots, Asthma, Heart Problem
short of breath — beyond the typical stuffy nose or shortness of breath
from exercise — could signal an underlying health problem. If you find
that you’re unable to catch your breath or you’re gasping for
air/wheezing, seek emergency medical care. Feeling breathless with or
without exertion or when reclining 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, and a blood
clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary
2. Unexplained Weight Loss
Risks: Overactive Thyroid, Liver Disease, Cancer
If you find that you’re losing excessive weight without trying, 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 noncancerous disorders, or disorders that interfere with how well your body absorbs nutrients.
3. Persistent Fever
Risks: Hidden Infections, Cancer
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 also 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.
4. Unexplained Changes In Bowel Habits
Risks: Bacterial/Viral Infection, Bowel Disease
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
• Unsuccessful 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.