For some people, every bump, bruise, or cough means a panicked rush to the nearest urgent care. However, for an even larger portion of the adult population, those trips to visit a medical professional are few and far between. In fact, according to recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, just 62 percent of American adults actually get an annual physical, and Census data reveals that, among those who do visit the doctor, patients were averaging one less visit per year than they had in 2001.
So, when does a seemingly minor ailment become one that’s worth checking in with a medical professional about? “If you feel something is wrong, do not just wait until the year is up,” says Dr. David Greuner, MD, of NYC Surgical Associates. “Schedule an appointment for sooner to ensure an issue does not get out of hand.” With that in mind, we’ve rounded up 25 subtle signs you need to see a doctor before it’s too late. And for more important signs you’re body’s giving you, don’t miss the 23 Cancer Warning Signs Hiding in Plain Sight.
You’re losing weight without trying.
While losing weight effortlessly may seem like a dream to some people, if the pounds are suddenly falling off without any major changes in your food habits or workout routine, it’s time to get to the doctor.
“If you lose weight without truly dieting or exercising, this could mean you are experiencing early symptoms of various cancers,” including cancers of the lungs, pancreas, and stomach, says Dr. Greuner.
You have persistent headaches.
Though data from the World Health Association reveals that approximately one in twenty adults experiences a headache on a daily basis, that doesn’t mean this relatively common ailment should go untreated. Sure, headaches can be a symptom of ailments as minor as dehydration or eye strain, but they can also be signs of meningitis, infections, traumatic brain injuries, or even tumors, so if you’ve got a pounding in your head that no OTC painkiller can touch, it’s definitely time to talk to a doctor. So always be sure to take them seriously. And for more amazing advice that may save your life, don’t miss these 100 Amazing Anti-Aging Secrets.
You have a fever that won’t go away.
The occasional fever can be a signal that your body’s working properly to fight off infection, but having a chronically high temperature is never a good thing. Persistent fevers are often signs that your body’s fighting an ongoing infection, and in some cases, can even be an early symptom of cancers including leukemia and lymphoma.
You have a nagging stomach ache.
Virtually everyone has experienced some discomfort after over-indulging in rich food, but if that pain in your stomach never seems to subside, it’s definitely time to see your doctor.
In addition to more serious conditions like cancer, persistent stomach pain can be a sign of ulcers, hernias, or conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
You have a lump in your throat.
That lump in your throat when you’re feeling verklempt at a wedding? Probably no big deal. That lump in your throat that’s making it difficult to swallow? Worth seeing your doctor about ASAP.
While a lump in your throat could be a symptom of tonsillitis, strep throat, or a run-of-the-mill cold, it can also signal more serious issues, including cancers of the throat and esophagus.
You’re feeling depressed.
We often hear that we should simply grin and bear it when we’re feeling down, but if you’re feeling depressed, it’s definitely worth telling your doctor.
Not only are approximately 50 percent of those who die from suicide struggling with depression first, but also depression can be a sign of other medical issues, including thyroid issues, vitamin deficiencies, and chronic pain. And for more reasons to kick your depression, know that these are 20 Health Benefits of Laughter.
You’re winded after regular activities.
It’s no big deal if you find yourself a little out of breath after a grueling workout, but if you find yourself panting after walking from your desk to the break room, it’s time to call the doctor. In addition to conditions like asthma and bronchitis, your wheezing could also be a sign of emphysema, COPD, or even a tumor.
You find yourself frequently confused.
Everyone gets confused from time to time, but if the onset of your confusion is sudden and you’re finding yourself struggling to complete simple tasks, your body’s telling you to consult a doctor.
Sudden confusion could be a sign of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or a traumatic brain injury, but it can also be a symptom of persistent infections, a lack of blood flow to the brain, low oxygen saturation, or even a tumor.
You’re feeling different after a medical procedure.
While a major medical procedure can make anyone feel a little off their game, if you’re feeling significantly different after going under the knife, you’ve got something worth discussing with your doctor. A major change in mood or physical status following a procedure could be a sign of infection or a bad reaction to medication, so make sure to get yourself seen before things get worse.
Your chest feels tight.
Most chest pain isn’t related to a heart attack, but if you’re experiencing any discomfort in your chest, it’s time to see your GP. In addition to heart attacks, chest pain can be a sign of angina, coronary artery disease, ulcers, pancreatitis, and pneumonia, among other serious conditions.
Your extremities are numb.
A little numbness in your extremities should prompt a lot more concern than many people think, particularly if that numbness is accompanied by a tingly feeling. This could be a sign of nerve damage (occasionally caused by a tumor), or can even be an early symptom of conditions like multiple sclerosis.
You’re having trouble breathing.
If every breath feels a little bit labored, it’s time to get to the doctor. Labored breathing can be a symptom of asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, and COPD, but it can also be one of the early signs of heart disease.
You have sudden weakness.
Weak in the knees when you meet a potential soulmate? No big deal. Sudden weakness in the legs, arms, or face that occurs with no rhyme or reason? A potentially huge deal. Sudden weakness can be a sign of a blood clot, Lyme disease, congestive heart failure, or a stroke.
You’ve gained weight rapidly.
If you see the numbers on the scale rising after a few weeks of particularly indulgent meals, it’s time to scale back. If you see the same thing happening virtually overnight with no seeming explanation, it’s time to see the doctor.
Sudden weight gain can be a side effect of certain medications, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, electrolyte imbalances, or even certain kinds of cancer that cause fluid retention, including those of the kidneys, liver, and ovaries.
You get dizzy frequently.
Don’t let those dizzy spells go unchecked, even if they seem relatively minor at first. In addition to putting you at risk for a fall, which could lead to a fracture or traumatic brain injury, dizziness can be a sign of inadequate blood flow to the brain, low oxygen levels, malnutrition, heart disease, or high blood pressure—none of which are best treated by a “wait and see” approach.
You have a persistent ache in your neck.
Staring down at your computer screen can certainly cause your neck to ache, but if no amount of massage or heat packs can solve your problem, it’s time to go to the doctor.
Not only can neck aches be a sign of a spinal injury, but they’re also a symptom of meningitis, which can be deadly if left untreated.
Your bathroom habits have changed significantly.
Whether you’re suddenly using the bathroom more or less frequently, any significant changes in your bathroom habits are worth having checked out. Increasingly frequent bowel movements can be a sign of infection, allergies, or gastrointestinal disease, while constipation can be a sign of a potentially-deadly bowel obstruction or tumor. And if you can barely drink a sip or water without having to use the bathroom shortly afterward, it may be a symptom that you have undiagnosed diabetes.
You have a cough that just won’t go away.
We all get those seasonal colds from time to time, but any cough that simply won’t go away should be treated by a doctor. It’s a sign of chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and GERD—and more serious issues, including whooping cough, heart failure, lung cancer, and pulmonary edema.
Many people find themselves snoring when they’ve got a cold, but if you’re suddenly sawing logs every time you go to sleep, it’s time to check in with a medical professional.
“Even something as simple as snoring could mean that you have an increased chance of heart disease or thickening of your carotid arteries,” says Dr. Greuner. Snoring can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a potentially-deadly condition that causes individuals to stop breathing while they sleep.
You feel full after eating just a few bites.
You might dream of someday becoming a person who wants to stop eating after just a nibble here and there, but having it happen with no explanation is rarely a positive development.
Not only can sudden fullness be a sign of conditions like GERD and ulcers, but it can also be a sign of cancers of the stomach, pancreas, and colon.
You have an injury that won’t heal.
If you’re keeping a recent wound clean, bandaged, and covered in antibiotic cream but it still won’t heal, it’s time to get to the doctor.
Poor wound healing can be a sign of autoimmune issues and more serious infection, but it’s also a surprising symptom of diabetes and can lead to necrosis if not treated with some immediacy.
You have a constant back ache.
Slouching in front of a computer screen can certainly cause persistent back pain, but if you’re dealing with an ache no masseur or chiropractor can tackle, it’s time to see the doctor. Back aches can be a sign of slipped discs, spinal stenosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, kidney infections, or even tumors.
You experience sudden changes in your vision.
While many people will experience some vision loss by adulthood, if the onset of your vision problems is sudden, you need to talk to your doctor. Sudden vision issues can be signs of high blood pressure, diabetes, retinal detachment, glaucoma, or even a brain tumor.
You’re craving non-food items.
That sudden desire to snack on a handful of sand or piece of chalk will land you more than just a special on TLC—it could also land you in the hospital.
Pica, a condition that prompts people to consume non-food items, can be a sign of malnutrition, anemia, and mental health issues, and can also lead to serious medical problems, including bowel obstruction or perforation, lead poisoning, or serious infections.
Your extremities are swollen.
We’ve all found ourselves looking a little puffy after an overly-salty meal or a long flight, but if you’re suddenly noticing that your extremities are looking significantly bigger with no rhyme or reason, it’s time to see your doctor.
Sudden swelling can be a sign of kidney failure, circulatory issues, deep vein thrombosis, heart disease, cirrhosis, or certain cancers, including those of the pancreas, kidneys, or reproductive organs.
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