Many times we ignore symptoms we consider to be minor like headaches and stomach pain. Typically these symptoms subside on their own or with the help of an over-the-counter medicine. However, there are some symptoms that are warning signs of potentially serious diseases, and it is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
The following symptoms could all be warning signs of a more serious condition.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath, or gasping for air, is quite common after exercising or if you have blocked nasal passages due to a cold or allergies. However, if you are gasping for unknown reasons, breathing hard, or wheezing, you should seek immediate medical attention. Shortness of breath can be caused by heart and lung problems.
Lung problems that can affect breathing include blood clots in the lungs, high blood pressure in the lungs, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and bronchitis (an inflammation of the airways).
Heart concerns that may lead to shortness of breath include leaky heart valves, fluid in the lungs, holes in the heart chamber, heart attacks, and blood clots in the heart.
Other causes of shortness of breath include weight gain, panic attacks, and compression of the chest resulting from injury.
A fever is a temporary rise in body temperature, in response to infection or illness. We often take fevers lightly and use home remedies, rather than consulting doctors. This is appropriate for fevers below 100.4 ̊F. If you have a fever over 102 ̊F that is persistent for more than three days or if you are running a high temperature greater than 104 ̊F, you need to see a doctor immediately. A severely high or persistent fever may signal urinary infection, tuberculosis, or a cancerous condition like lymphoma.
Sudden Intense Headaches
Headaches are common and, typically, are not a cause for concern. You should consult a doctor if you experience a sudden and severe headache, a headache that does not subside, or a headache that is accompanied by fever, rashes, stiffness, confusion, or seizure. Serious causes of headaches include brain tumors and aneurysms.
Flashes of Light
Eye flashes, or the appearance of flashing lights, occur when the fluid in the eye, called vitreous gel, rubs or pulls on the retina. Eye flashes can be normal, but see your doctor immediately if you experience unexplained flashing lights. A trip to the doctor may help you avoid future consequences like permanent vision loss.
Sudden Weakness and Loss of Vision or Speech
Unexpected weakness or numbness on one side of the body, sudden blurring or complete loss of vision, difficulty speaking or understanding others, sudden dizziness, and sudden severe headache are warning signs of a stroke or transient ischemic attack, which is also known as a TIA or mini-stroke. A stroke occurs when the artery that carries blood to the brain is blocked or ruptured, resulting in brain tissue death.
A stroke is an extreme emergency and quick action needs be taken if you experience one of these symptoms. Every minute counts in preventing damage to the body and brain due to stroke.
If you are suffering from red-hot or swollen joints for more than a week and also have a fever and chills, you might have a joint infection, internal bleeding caused by an injury, or fluid accumulation (swelling) from an old injury. Infections can be caused by bacteria or fungus, which enter through breaks in the skin. If the swelling occurs for more than six weeks it might be due to arthritis or gout.
Sudden unintentional weight loss usually signals serious complications. You should see your doctor if your body weight has dropped by 10 percent or more in the past six months. Unexplained weight loss might be due to hyperthyroidism (an increased secretion of hormones from the thyroid gland), liver disease, cancer, AIDS, depression, drug abuse, infection, or malabsorption of nutrients.
Feeling Full After Eating Very Little
If you feel full after eating very little you may have early satiety. Early satiety is usually accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, fever, and weight loss or gain. The cause of satiety may be heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, gastric outlet obstruction, or esophageal cancer. If you experience early satiety for more than a week consult a doctor. Your physician may perform tests, which could include a blood test for anemia, a stool test for any bleeding, and an X-ray study of the stomach, small intestine, and esophagus.
Unexplained Change in Bowel Movement
It is normal to have bowel movements between three times a week and three times a day. Constipation and diarrhea are also common; however, if either persists for a long time, it could be a warning that you have an underlying health issue. If you notice blood in your stools, dark-tarry colored stools, continuous diarrhea for a week, constipation for more than three weeks, or frequent urges for bowel movements, you should consult your physician. These changes may be due to a bacterial or viral infection or a parasite infestation. In some the change in bowel movements may point toward serious conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer.
Delirium is a state of severe confusion and rapid change in brain function caused by severe physical or mental illness. Delirium is a temporary condition and not always an obvious one. A person in delirium might exhibit symptoms that include sudden confused thinking, change in sleep patterns, disorientation, inability to remember events before and after delirium, and sudden behavioral changes like reacting aggressively. Behavioral changes could also be the result of anemia, low blood glucose, psychiatric problems, infection, or use of new medications.
Listen to Your Body…
Pay attention to what your body says and never ignore your symptoms. Illness can arise if you ignore the signals from your body. Your body sends you these messages for a reason. The earlier you detect a disease the sooner you can treat it and prevent further complications.