As a doctor, I know that it’s not always obvious that you are ill. Sometimes symptoms and signs can creep up on you. You just aren’t sure whether to bother people like me. Remember: You’re not a hypochondriac; you’re looking after yourself! If you suffer from anything on this list, your doctor will be pleased to see you and relieved you made that appointment! It’s always the case that an early diagnosis gives the best chance of cure, so if you think something isn’t right, listen to your body and go and see a professional. Do you recognize any of the following scenarios?
…because you just can’t hear it. Is that just old age deafness creeping up on you? Or could your hearing loss be due to anything else? Check with an ENT if you’re concerned.
…but when you touch them, they feel the right temperature. This might be a peripheral neuropathy, “a result of damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves), that often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet,” per the Mayo Clinic. See your doctor!
Night blindness is very common. Old age causes hardening and yellowing of the lenses. This can be made worse by dry eyes. Get it checked out. Worst case scenario, it’s a rare condition called retinitis pigmentosa—or maybe you simply need a new set of headlights!
…and can’t get off to sleep, can’t stay asleep, sleep fitfully, wake early in the morning, feel tired and refreshed. Sleep disorders including snoring and sleep apnea as well as other sleep disorders are very common. You may need professional help.
Memory problems are all too common. Forgetful? Tired? Menopause? Or could it be dementia? If you’re experiencing memory loss that disrupts your daily life, discuss the issue with your doctor.
Are your eye tests up to date? Healthy eyes, healthy body!
Is that because of all those bad nights’ sleep? She says you’re snoring—but could this be obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airway behind the tongue collapses when you breathe in, reducing or even stopping your airflow for up to a minute. Sleep apnea has been associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Researchers think that’s because the condition causes repeated oxygen deprivation that stresses the blood vessels and heart.
Fungal nail infections may mean you have low levels of immunity. Time for a check-up.
There’s something wrong with the skin you’re in, and there are a million causes for itchy skin—known as generalized pruritis: Allergies, scabies, eczema, psoriasis and liver disease. Go and get it checked.
And what’s blocking it? Your hair—again! Hair loss—known as alopecia—has many unpleasant causes. See the doctor.
Sporting sprouty hairs on your chin? Oh dear! Unwanted hair. This can be a sign of too many male hormones. It’s quite common at menopause—however, get it checked!
And your shoe size is increasing. This is rare but may be due to acromegaly—caused by overproduction of growth hormone.
Are you really that constipated? If it’s a rare occurrence, maybe you ate something funny. If it happens frequently, you may not be getting enough fiber.
Keep running out of toilet paper? Someone has diarrhea. If this is a persisting change of bowel habit don’t be embarrassed. This is especially urgent if there is blood in your stool. Seek help!
Are you really that thirsty—or too thirsty? Excessive thirst can be a sign of diabetes. Go and see your doctor for a test.
There can be many reasons for this. Diabetes is a common cause. Urinary infections and prostate problems. Don’t leave it—do go and see your doctor.
Is this just because you’re unfit—or is there something wrong with your heart or your lungs? Time for a physical.
And you cough in the night. This could be asthma. It’s very treatable—make an appointment.
It’s this constant indigestion. What’s causing it—reflux, gastritis, or a stomach ulcer? Are you taking too many painkillers—for example, ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, NSAID) which can irritate the lining of your stomach? Don’t leave this until it’s too late—see your doctor.
The list of medicines on your repeat prescription can get ridiculously long. Ask your doctor for a medication review.
It’s either frequent bleeding, vaginal discharge or urine. Whatever’s going on, this isn’t your new normal—it’s time to see the doctor.
I’m afraid the rest of the campsite are only too aware who is keeping everyone awake with their express-train snoring! Loud snoring is a feature of sleep apnea, which is a serious medical condition. Snoring is actually not funny, it’s a serious business. It can cause heart failure and death—see the doctor.
See the doctor. You might be jaundiced—it’s a sign of liver disease.
This could be due to stress, be secondary skin infections, or even rarely, a sign of HIV infection. See the doctor.
Could you be anemic? Or is there something wrong with your heart and lungs? Go and see your doctor.
This may be because you have slipped down off your pillows and are too flat in the bed. It’s called paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea and it’s a sign of heart failure.
…or do up your shoelaces. If your abdomen is swelling this is most likely fat—sadly—but can be due to fluid in the abdomen, a.k.a. ascites. This is very serious so you must see the doctor.
Are you getting hot flashes or night sweats—that’s likely menopause for women. Or if you get a fever at night, take your temperature regularly—this could be a PUO, a.k.a a pyrexia of unknown origin (fevers that last more than three weeks without any idea why). See your doctor.
Weight loss, if unintentional, always needs investigation. See the doctor.
This may be for many reasons. Check you are not pregnant. Think about any medication you are taking. In fact, sometimes it’s anxiety—as people quite literally feel sick with worry. Sometimes it has a more sinister cause.
…and you are not pregnant. This is called secondary amenorrhoea. It can happen for many reasons, and it can affect your long term health—go and see the doctor.
This is called post-coital bleeding. This is always something that needs an urgent trip to the doctors. Chances are it will have an innocent —for example, a cervical ectropion, which is a spreading of cells. However, it can be a sign of cervical cancer. Like all serious illnesses the sooner they are diagnosed the better. Get this checked out. Don’t be one of the 8 million women who have not had their smear test! It really isn’t as bad as you think. Cervical smears save lives! Do something amazing for yourself and book that test today.
This is often just one of those things—however, recurrent nose bleeds can make you anemic. Sometimes nose bleeds—epistaxis—can be very difficult to control. Very rarely you can die from a nosebleed. A very heavy nosebleed can be a sign your blood isn’t clotting properly, or even, for example, that you have leukemia.
Look in the mirror, put a finger just underneath your lower eyelid and pull it down. If this conjunctival area is abnormally pale it can be a sign of anemia. You may also have pale creases in the palms of your hands, and a pale tongue. When anemic you are often feeling tired all the time. See the doctor.
This is characteristic of a condition called hemochromatosis in which abnormal levels of iron are laid down in the body. It’s a genetically inherited condition. It’s very treatable.
Halitosis can be because you have gum disease, so it’s very important to brush your teeth regularly, floss, and go for check-ups and see the hygienist. Some medical conditions can be associated with unpleasant breath such as diabetes, chronic cough, smoking, and acid-reflux. Do something about this today!
This is called oedema. It can be a sign of heart failure or other problems such as liver disease. Go and get help right away.
There is a long list of causes. Stress, anxiety, depression, and poor sleeping are all on the list. But serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease also cause extreme fatigue. Go and have a check-up.
This can be due to nodules on your vocal cords, smoking, thyroid disease or even cancer. Have you had this assessed?
Any changes must be reported. Remember your ABCDs:
- Asymmetry – is your mole asymmetrical?
- Border – does it have an irregular border?
- Color – is the color uniform?
- Diameter – is it more than 6mm in diameter?
If any of this is happening, go and show your doctor.
…where you don’t usually have a lump. It might just be a fatty lump—a lipoma—but it could also be an enlarged lymph gland. If it’s a change from what you usually have, go and see the doctor. It could be lymphoma.
These can be associated with chest tightness and a feeling of being unable to breathe. These symptoms also occur with angina, so this could be serious. Go and get this checked at the doctors.
This can mean clotting problems and may signify liver disease or bleeding disorders. Don’t leave it!
This can happen for a variety of reasons—for example in pregnancy, or as side effects of certain medicines such as antibiotics or medicines. Rarely it can be due to more serious illnesses such as cancer.
This can be one joint or several joints. Yes, osteoarthritis is the most common cause associated with aging, but other causes include gout, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Gout—sorry to say this—is associated with excess alcohol. See your doc.
This is called diplopia. Do go and see your optician. Causes include dry eyes, problems with the cornea, cataracts, strokes, and even brain tumors.
…like puckering or dimpling of the skin, even if you can’t feel a lump. It’s extremely important you see the doctor straight away. If you do have breast cancer the earlier this is detected, the better the treatment outcome.
…which won’t go away. Other important symptoms are shortness of breath and blood in the sputum. You must see the doctor right away.
This could be coronary artery disease—angina. It’s because your coronary arteries are furred up inside and the blood supply to the heart is adequate at rest but can’t cope when you exercise. Don’t wait—see the doctor. Next step could be a heart attack. Angina is treatable.
…or more severe pain lasting more than 24-48 hours—it’s time to get help. Arrange to see your doctor. There are numerous causes, but you must get the right diagnosis and the right treatment.
Dr. Deborah Lee is a medical writer at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.
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