7 Reasons You Should Always Go to the Doctor

These symptoms mean it's time to book your next appointment.

As a partner in your health, your doctor is there to guide you toward wellness through diagnosis and treatment. However, not every health concern necessarily warrants a visit to your doctor's office, and some are so severe—think heart attack or stroke—that you should bypass your primary physician in favor of the emergency room.

Though it can be difficult to decide whether or not to call the doctor when those in-between instances occur, most experts advise you to err on the side of caution and make the call—after all, part of your doctor's job is to gauge the seriousness of your symptoms.

That said, many experts agree that certain signs should never be ignored, even if they don't warrant an ER visit. Read on for seven reasons you should always book an appointment with your doctor, and why these particular problems are considered red flags.

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Symptoms of your chronic condition have changed or worsened.

Mature man communicating with female doctor and complaining of chest pain during home visit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39 percent of all visits to office-based physicians were regarding chronic conditions.

If you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, it's important to monitor your symptoms and make a plan to see your doctor if new symptoms arise, or if established symptoms change or worsen. This could signal that you've developed complications, or that your treatment plan requires adjustment.

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You feel full after eating only a little.

man feeling full not hungry

The Mayo Clinic says that one symptom you should always discuss with your doctor is early satiety—the sensation of feeling full after eating only a little. They note that along with this symptom, you may experience nausea, vomiting, bloating, or weight loss: all symptoms to mention to your doctor when you go for your visit.

Possible causes for early satiety include gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastric outlet obstruction, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or more serious conditions such as stomach cancer.

Your fever is abnormally high or long-lasting.

woman sick checking temperature
Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock

Fevers are common, and can be the result of a range of everyday conditions. Most often, the culprit is a viral or bacterial infection, such as a cold or the flu.

However, fevers that are especially high or long-lasting do merit a trip to the doctor. Specifically, any fever that tops 103 degrees Fahrenheit or persists for longer than three days is worth discussing with your medical provider. Though the fever itself is unlikely to cause serious complications, it could indicate an underlying condition that requires treatment.

You've lost weight suddenly.

Man going on the scale looking at his weight

Sudden, unexplained weight loss is another red flag that it's time to call the doctor, the Mayo Clinic says. Unintentional weight loss can signal a range of potentially serious chronic conditions, including cancer, dementia, diabetes, overactive thyroid, Parkinson's disease, and more.

Sometimes, unexplained weight loss can be a side effect of medication. Discussing your full range of symptoms and current medications may help your doctor better understand the root cause of your weight loss.

Your bathroom habits have changed.

Man holding toilet paper in bathroom

A wide range of bathroom habits can be considered normal, but if you notice a sudden change, it could be cause for concern. Sometimes bowel changes can be the result of bacterial or viral infection, which could require treatment. Rarely, sudden bowel changes signal something more serious, such as colon cancer.

The Mayo Clinic says that you should always reach out to your doctor to let them know if you experience certain changes in particular: bloody, black or tarry-colored stools, persistent stomach pain, or diarrhea or constipation that doesn't go away.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, changes in urination are typically harmless, but can also signal underlying conditions that require treatment. These may include kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or liver disease.

You feel a new lump.

Dermatologist looking at woman's wrist

If you notice a new lump on your body, it's important to bring it to your doctor's attention quickly—especially if it grows in size, is larger than two inches, lasts for longer than two weeks, or is painful, the Cleveland Clinic says.

Though most lumps are not cause for concern—especially when they are soft, movable, or located directly under the skin—it's important to rule out serious conditions. For instance, though up to 80 percent of lumps found in the breast are determined to be benign or non-cancerous, it's imperative that you tell your doctor if you discover one in order to rule out breast cancer.

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You have any symptom that is severe or persistent.

Woman in Pain

The bottom line when it comes to your health is that anything that departs from your usual health baseline is worth asking your doctor about. This is especially true if your symptom is particularly severe or persistent.

Speak with your doctor about anything that strikes you as abnormal or concerning. Though this does not always indicate a serious diagnosis, it's always worth investigating, along with the help of a medical professional.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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