We all ignore medical symptoms from time to time, and it usually doesn’t lead to dire consequences. Let’s face it: It’s a lot easier to avoid going to the doctor and saying that your secret worries are nothing.
But there are some symptoms that should make you see a doctor without hesitation. For guidance on what those might be, we caught up with Cindy Parnes, MD, founder and director of Women’s Health Center of New Jersey in Montvale.
He notes that “attention to seemingly trivial complaints can sometimes prevent a trip to the ER or uncover a more serious problem.” So when should you call a doctor? Here are eight red flags you should never ignore.
- Chest pain
The sharp pain in your chest may actually be a heart attack, which is often seen on your TV show. So, if you experience chest compressions, call 911.
Even if the pain is a little severe, if it recurs, you should call your doctor. “You have to judge,” Parnes said. Don’t assume that a heart attack is always felt in the chest. Symptoms like back pain, nausea, jaw pain, and extreme fatigue (like you can’t make your bed without needing to take a nap) can all indicate that you’re suffering from depression. If any of these happen to you, call 911 and tell them you’re having a heart attack.
- Severe headache
Call 911 immediately if you experience a sudden headache that can be described as the worst pain you’ve ever experienced. You may have an aneurysm, a loose part of the wall of an artery that supplies blood to the brain.
The pain is the result of an enlarged artery pressing on the brain. If it ruptures, you can die from a stroke or brain hemorrhage. Don’t hesitate; Call 911.
Parnes says it’s different from a migraine, but can have similar symptoms, including vomiting, photosensitivity and fainting. But the pain in your head is so strong that you cannot bear it.
If your headaches start to become frequent (and come on suddenly), see your doctor. These can be symptoms of a brain tumor, vision problems, or many other factors. An emergency isn’t as big as an aneurysm, but your doctor should rule out other problems, Parnes says.
- Abdominal bloating and flatulence
A patient came to Parnes after a major heart operation. Although his appetite had not really increased, he seemed to be constantly bloated. However, he couldn’t even close his pants.
He explained that it could be related to the surgery – perhaps excess air trapped in the stomach from being on the operating table for so long?
Parnes knew this red flag could mean something serious, so he ordered blood tests and an ultrasound. His patient was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I’m concerned about bloating and gas,” Parnes said. “It’s not a one-day change. It’s a continuous change.”
See your doctor if you experience unusually large amounts of bloating, loss of appetite, postmenopausal bleeding, or changes in bowel patterns.
- Numbness in hands and feet
If you experience numbness, weakness, or tingling in your arms or legs, or loss of strength (for example, difficulty climbing stairs), you may have a herniated or bulging disc that is pressing on your nerves. And this nerve can be damaged.
“If you don’t relieve nerve pressure, you can have permanent nerve changes or damage,” Parnes warns. Call your orthopedist or neurologist to discuss treatment. Usually, the doctor will wait to see if these symptoms go away on their own. But in the meantime, you may need physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Aleve or others), alternating heat and ice, or cortisone injections. If these treatments do not work, surgery may be necessary. . In any case, do not wait for attention.
- Pain when the leg is swollen
If you notice swelling, pain, or pain in your calf, see your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room.
“It needs immediate attention and it’s not something you should wait for,” Parnes said.
Symptoms may indicate a blood clot in your leg, which is a dangerous condition because if the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, it can be fatal.
About 200,000 people die each year from pulmonary embolism, according to the Society for Interventional Radiology, which tracks such statistics. A clot can block the supply of oxygen to your lungs.
However, if treated quickly (usually with blood thinners and close monitoring), the death rate is less than 10 percent. Patients with a history of blood clotting are most susceptible
MS includes shortness of breath, discoloration of the legs, more visible veins and a warm spot on the leg.
- Persistent cough
If you can’t shake that cough, get yourself to the doctor. A cough that won’t quit can mean many things, Parnes says. Possible diagnoses include:
cancer of some type
Gastro Intestinal Reflux Disease (GIRD)
bronchial or lung problems
“It should be investigated,” says Parnes.
- Outsized fatigue
Everyone’s energy level is different, especially as they age. But if you are finding that suddenly you can’t maintain the pace of your life, then your body might be trying to tell you something.
Your doctor can test you for anemia. You could have Lyme’s Disease or a malignancy. Your hormones might be out of balance. It might be a sign of heart attack.
In any case, don’t ignore it. See your doctor and let him or her rule out the causes of your lethargy. It may be a simple problem that can be remedied, so you’ll feel more like your old self in a very short time.