Take note of these important signs and symptoms, from unexplained weight loss to sudden flashes of light, each should alert you and prompt you to seek medical attention.
Chest pain, sudden loss of vision or speech, and severe abdominal pain require immediate medical attention, but what about more subtle signs and symptoms? It can be difficult to know what to do. Here is a list of seven signs and symptoms that deserve your full attention.
Losing weight without trying may seem like a dream come true, but in reality, it could signal a health problem. If you are not obese and have lost more than 5 kilograms, or more than 5% of your body weight, in the past six to 12 months, see your doctor.
Unexplained weight loss could be caused by a variety of conditions, including an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), diabetes, depression, liver disease, cancer, or disorders that interfere with how your body absorbs nutrients ( malabsorption disorders).
A fever is not necessarily cause for concern. Fever seems to play a key role in fighting infection. Persistent fever can signal a hidden infection, which could be anything from a UTI to tuberculosis. In some cases, cancerous (malignant) conditions, such as lymphomas, cause prolonged or persistent fevers, as do some medications.
Call your doctor if your temperature is 39 C or higher or if you have had a fever for more than three days.
Shortness of breath could signal an underlying health problem. Very strenuous exercise, extreme temperatures, massive obesity, and high altitudes can all cause shortness of breath. Other than these examples, shortness of breath is likely a sign of a medical problem. If you have unexplained shortness of breath, especially if it comes on suddenly and is severe, seek emergency medical attention.
Causes of shortness of breath can include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), and other heart and lung problems. Difficulty breathing can also occur with a panic attack, a sudden episode of intense anxiety that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.
What is considered normal for stool varies widely. See your doctor if you notice any unusual or unexplained changes in what’s normal for you, such as:
- Bloody, black, or tar-colored stools
- Persistent diarrhea or constipation
- Unexplained craving for a saddle
Changes in bowel habits could signal a bacterial infection, such as campylobacter or salmonella infection, or a viral or parasitic infection. Other possible causes include irritable bowel disease and colon cancer.
See a doctor if you suddenly have:
- Difficulty concentrating, sustaining, or shifting attention
- Behavioral changes
These changes could be caused by many issues, including infection, poor nutrition, mental health issues, or medications.
If you still feel full sooner than usual or after eating less than usual, get yourself checked out by your doctor. This feeling, known as early satiety, could also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, bloating or weight loss. If so, be sure to tell your doctor about these signs and symptoms as well.
Possible causes of early satiety include gastroesophageal reflux disease, and peptic ulcers. In some cases, a more serious problem, such as pancreatic cancer, could be a factor.
Bright spots or flashes of light sometimes indicate a migraine. In other cases, sudden flashes of light could signal retinal detachment. Immediate medical attention can help prevent permanent vision loss.