You work hard taking care of your family, friends and work. But are you taking care of yourself? Too often we ignore symptoms because we’re just too busy to bother getting checked out. That can be a big – possibly fatal – mistake. Find out the 9 symptoms – from fatigue, tummy pain, shortness of breath and more – you shouldn’t ignore…
More often than not, it’s the smart, educated women who put off going to the doctor, even when it should be a top priority, says Judy Kinzy, M.D., an internal medicine specialist in Knoxville, Tenn. It’s not unusual for a woman to come in long after a symptom has persisted.
“They read about it and try to figure it out on their own,” Dr. Kinzy says. “They don’t think about possible consequences. Bottom line, they don’t really want to have to deal with it.”
But not addressing a mysterious problem can be dangerous – and can even lead to a chronic or fatal disease.
Check out these symptoms women shouldn’t ignore.
1. Acute Fatigue
Let’s face it: Women are used to being tired. Who doesn’t have a book-length “to-do” list? Take car to mechanic, go to bank, pick up cat food, take children to soccer game, finish project at work, get mechanic, check on Mom and Dad… and on and on.
Overload leads to fatigue, but when low energy and exhaustion are chronic and continue for more than two weeks, see a doctor.
Acute fatigue can be a difficult symptom to diagnose, Dr. Kinzy says, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. It can indicate hypothyroidism, which can be treated with a hormone, or anemia, which is treatable with iron or vitamin B12 shots.
More seriously, it can be a sign of depression, sleep apnea, heart disease or even lung cancer.
2. Rectal Bleeding
Pregnant women who’ve had hemorrhoids while pregnant might dismiss rectal bleeding as a sign of a new hemorrhoid and not take it seriously, says Ruth Stewart, M.D., assistant professor at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University.
Rectal bleeding can indeed indicate a hemorrhoid, but it can also be a sign of colon or rectal cancer, which is curable if caught early, she says.
If you experience rectal bleeding, see a doctor right away. And even if it’s just a hemorrhoid, it still needs to be treated.
3. Abdominal Bloating and Pain, Change in Bowel Habits
Like rectal bleeding, abdominal bloating and pain or a change in bowel habits can indicate something serious like colon cancer.
These symptoms also can signal ovarian cancer, inflammatory bowel syndrome or diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis occurs when you have small pouches that bulge outward in your colon (diverticulosis) that get infected. It can be treated with antibiotics but sometimes requires surgery.
If you experience abdominal bloating or a persistent change in bowel habits, such as constipation, make an appointment with your doctor.
4. Pain or Discomfort in Chest
Heart disease may be the No.1 killer of American women, but “most women still don’t think about it happening to them,” Dr. Kinzy says. “Then it ends up being about their heart.”
The signs of coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack, are typically much more subtle in women than in men.
“Angina isn’t always obvious in women. It’s not the classic ‘elephant sitting on my chest’ feeling,” Dr. Stewart says. “Sometimes it’s just discomfort or a ‘not well’ feeling.”
Women might misdiagnose the discomfort as acid reflux or a “burpy” sensation.
One of Dr. Stewart’s former patients said the feeling was akin to having a balloon inside her chest. She assumed it was acid reflux, took a Maalox and went to work; a few hours later, she came into the hospital having a heart attack.
If you’re having trouble exerting yourself, have some discomfort or pain in your chest, or you’re just not feeling normal, see a doctor immediately.
5. Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations are often related to stress. But if persistent, they can also be a sign of atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat.
Without treatment for atrial fibrillation, you increase your risk of having a stroke, especially if you have these other heart disease risk factors: abdominal girth of more than 35 inches in women, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or being a smoker.
6. Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is yet another symptom of heart disease. But it can also be a sign of other serious health problems, such as pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer or even a blood clot.
If you’re having continual or increased problems breathing, make an appointment to be evaluated.
7. Change in the Appearance of a Mole
Melanoma (skin cancer) is often linked to a change in moles, so check them, along with freckles, regularly for any difference in their appearance.
Follow the ABCD method recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology to help detect possible problems:
If the mole is A, asymmetrical; B, has uneven borders; C, has changed in color; or D, changed in diameter, see a dermatologist immediately.
Any changes in your skin, such as a growth or a sore that won’t heal, are also potential indicators of melanoma.
8. Breast Lumps
Know your breasts intimately.
Examine them monthly to detect any new masses or lumps.
Confused about last year’s change in mammogram guidelines? Talk to your doctor to determine how often you should be getting mammograms.
Potentially cancerous lumps usually feel like small stones or rocks in your breast, Dr. Kinzy says.
Non-cancerous lumps are typically more tender and change with your menstrual cycle.
But this is not always the case, so check with your doctor if a new lump appears.
9. Swelling in Legs or Persistent Pain in Joints
If you notice swelling in one or both legs, particularly after you’ve been traveling in a car or airplane, see a doctor. Swelling in one leg can mean a blood clot. If it’s in both legs, it could be a sign of kidney or liver disease.
Chronic or constant pain in joints could mean something more serious than arthritis, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, which may require steroid treatment.
Source: Life Script