9 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

A blood pressure gauge with a heart in itWe 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!

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1. Unexplained Weight Loss

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.

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 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.

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 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 hypertension.

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
• 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.

5. Mental Changes

Immediate medical evaluation is warranted if any of the following occur:

• Sudden or gradual confused thinking
• Disorientation
• Sudden aggressive behavior
• Hallucinations (if you have 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. Also 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.
• A headache accompanied by a fever, stiff neck, rash, mental confusion, seizures, vision changes, weakness, numbness, speaking difficulties, scalp tenderness or pain with chewing.
• A headache that begins or worsens after a head injury.
These headache symptoms may be caused by stroke, blood vessel inflammation (arthritis), meningitis, brain tumor, aneurysm or bleeding on the brain after head trauma.

6. Short-Term Loss of Vision, Speaking or Movement Control

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:

• 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
• Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a fall
7. 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.

8. Feeling Very 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.

9. Hot, Red or Swollen Joints

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 rheumatoid arthritis.

Your body tries its very best to warn you when there’s trouble, so never ignore the signs. While some are not obviously alarming, they can still lead to serious health problems. Trust your body – it knows!

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