10 Symptoms You Should Not Ignore

Obvious signs and symptoms are reason enough for you to seek immediate medical help.

However, some signs and symptoms are not as obvious – and that’s what’s unsettling about them. Subtle signs and symptoms leave you questioning whether you should bother seeking medical attention at all – keeping you from receiving timely medical care.

With this in mind, take note of any unusual feeling you’ve experienced and discuss it with your doctor ASAP – remember, the earlier you identify the disease, the greater your chances of being cured – and watch out for the 10 symptoms you should not ignore.

Unexplained weight loss

If you find yourself losing a lot of weight without meaning to, consult your doctor.

· 5 percent of your weight within a month and/or 10 percent of your weight within 6-12 months is considered excessive weight loss.

Unexplained excessive weight loss could be caused by several conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, cancer, non-cancerous conditions, liver disease, (nutrient) malabsorption disorders, or depression.

Persistent fever

  • Persistent low-grade fevers (100.4 F) should be checked if:
  • You have a healthy immune system
  • You’re not undergoing treatment (e.g. chemo for cancer)
  • They have been going on for a week or more.

If you have high fevers (higher than 103 F), or you’re severely ill, seek medical care as soon as possible.

If, on the other hand, you have an immune system problem or are taking immune-suppressing drugs, a persistent fever may not be a reliable warning signal. Your oncologist or primary doctor can tell you what to watch out for.

Persistent fevers can indicate hidden infections such as urinary tract infection (UTI), tuberculosis, etc. Persistent fevers may also be caused by malignant conditions (e.g. lymphomas), medications or responses to certain drugs.

Fevers are common with treatable infections like UTI. However, a low-grade fever which lasts for more than two weeks may be caused by some underlying cancers or tuberculosis and other serious diseases. See your doctor immediately.

Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath, unlike the usual shortness of breath from exercise or colds, could be a symptom of a serious condition. If you ever experience being unable to get your breath, gasping for air or wheezing, feeling breathless with or without exertion or when reclining, seek emergency medical care.

Shortness of breath may be a sign of medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung), pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, heart problems, anxiety and panic attacks.

Unexplained changes in bowel habits

If you have any of the following, seek medical help ASAP:

  • Severe diarrhea persisting for more than two days
  • Mild diarrhea lasting for a week
  • Constipation that continues for more than two weeks
  • Unexplained urge to have bowel movement
  • Blood stools; bloody diarrhea
  • Black or tar-colored stools

Changes in bowel habits may be sign of a bacterial (e.g. salmonella), viral or parasitic infection. Other possible causes include inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

Mental status changes

If any of the following happens, seek immediate medical evaluation:

  • Disorientation
  • Abrupt or gradual confused thinking
  • Sudden aggressive behavior
  • Hallucinations (in someone who has never experience them)

Changes in thinking and/or behavior may be caused by an infection, stroke, low blood sugar, head injury or medications (particularly those you just started taking).

New or more severe headaches

Seek immediate medical attention if you have:

  • A sudden and severe headache (thunderclap)
  • A headache accompanied by mental confusion, seizures, vision changes, fever, weakness, numbness, speaking problems, scalp pain or tenderness, pain with chewing, stiff neck or a rash.
  • Severe headaches that come with any of the above symptoms may be caused by bleeding on/in the brain due to head injury, aneurysm, meniningitis, arteritis (blood vessel inflammation), brain tumor or stroke.

Short-term blindness (loss of vision), speaking or movement control

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you don’t have time to lose. Seek immediate emergency medical care:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body
  • Sudden dimness, blurring or loss of vision
  • Loss of speech, or trouble talking (or understanding) speech
  • A thunderclap headache
  • Sudden unsteadiness or dizziness

These may be symptoms of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

Flashes of light

"Seeing" sudden flashes of light may signal the start of retinal detachment. Seek immediate medical care to save sight in the affected eye.

Feeling full after eating a small meal

Feeling full sooner than normal, persistent nausea and vomiting that last for more than a week may be caused by conditions such as pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and ovarian cancer.

Hot, red or swollen joint

A red, hot or swollen joint may be caused by an infection and should be treated immediately to prevent the bacteria from spreading. Other possible causes may be gout, or certain types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Source: Mayo Clinic