59 Health Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Don’t dismiss these important cues from your body that could signal huge health problems. Your life may depend on it.
Pressure or tightness in the jaw, neck, or arms
Believe it or not, you might be having a heart attack—especially if you’re a woman. Women under 55 who have had a heart attack are actually more likely to have experienced lesser-known symptoms like this. They are also more likely to have experienced three or more symptoms other than chest pain before having a cardiac incident, according to a study published in Circulation. The problem is, these symptoms are often misinterpreted or ignored, even by doctors, and this puts women at an increased risk of dying in comparison with men of the same age. So be aware, be smart, and be your own best advocate. Read about these 8 sneaky heart-attack symptoms that women should never ignore.
Leg pain that occurs only on one side
The likely culprit is a pulled muscle, but if the area is also swollen and warm, and symptoms get worse even after you elevate your leg, it could be a life-threatening condition called deep vein thrombosis. It’s a blood clot that forms in an interior vein, usually in the lower leg or thigh, and while treatable, if not caught in time, it can be fatal if the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. Risk factors include not moving around on a long plane ride, recent surgery or illness that caused you to be sedentary, and taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
Sudden flashes of light or an increase in floaters
A few flashes of light and even a couple of floaters—dark squiggly lines in your line of sight—are normal. According to Harvard Health Publishing, around a quarter of people in their 60s have floaters, and that number rises to two-thirds by age 80. They’re also more common if a person is nearsighted or has diabetes. However, if the symptoms come on suddenly—or increase—you should see a doctor as soon as possible. They could signal a torn retina, which could then lead to a detached retina and permanent vision loss. Early detection and treatment—usually with lasers or cryotherapy, which utilizes extreme cold to reattach the retina to the back wall of the eye—is crucial to avoiding blindness.
Don’t assume the worst if headaches are plaguing you. You might just need glasses or some antihistamines. “Persistent headaches can be a sign of something as simple as chronic allergies or sinus pressure,” says Kay Durairaj, MD, who specializes in head and neck surgery as well as facial plastic surgery. “Or they could be as complex as a brain tumor or stroke.” How can you tell the difference? Try some reading glasses or allergy medicine first to see if that solves the problem. But pay attention to all of your symptoms: “Anytime a headache is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or visual changes, it’s a serious sign that it must be evaluated immediately,” Dr. Durairaj adds. “If it’s related to a stroke, symptoms like facial asymmetry, arm weakness, and slurred speech are also warning signs.” Find out about the 8 silent symptoms of brain cancer.
Sudden groin pain
Men, pay attention: If you feel as if you’ve suffered a kick to your private parts without actually getting kicked in your private parts, you might need surgery ASAP—like, ideally within the next four hours. It could be testicular torsion, which occurs when one of the spermatic cords gets twisted, often as the result of a common congenital defect or from an infection of the epididymis, where sperm is stored. According to Men’s Health, if you wait longer than 12 to 24 hours to get treated, you could lose your testicle. Check out these 14 symptoms men should never ignore.
How much is too much? According to Medical News Today, you’re peeing excessively if you have to go more than seven times in 24 hours after drinking two liters of fluid. But before you head to the doctor, try consuming fewer liquids, especially those with caffeine or alcohol. However, if your lifestyle doesn’t seem to be an issue, excessive urination could be a symptom of diabetes, a urinary tract infection, a kidney problem, a mass pressing against your bladder, an STD like chlamydia, or prostate problems. Don’t miss these 10 other things your pee can reveal about your health.
Flulike symptoms accompanied by a stiff neck
When you have the flu, it’s normal to feel achy, but if you have extreme discomfort in your neck and you have trouble touching your chin to your chest, you need to see a doctor right away. Meningitis attacks the membrane that protects the brain and spinal cord, and the bacterial form of it can be deadly—sometimes killing within just a few hours. Other symptoms can include increased sensitivity to light, confusion, and a rash. By the time the rash appears, the disease is often in a very advanced state and may not respond to treatment.
Moles that itch or bleed
The body is a wonderland, made up of freckles, beauty marks, and moles, and most of them pose no threat. But if any start to itch or bleed, they need to be checked out stat. That mole could be melanoma. The American Academy of Dermatology says to follow the ABCDE rules when it comes to moles: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving. Changes in any of those categories can be red flags. While melanoma accounts for only around 1 percent of all skin cancers, it is the most deadly, and this year alone, an estimated 9,320 people in the United States will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Learn about the 7 skin cancer symptoms you should check for now.
It sounds innocuous and even kind of quirky and sweet, but it could be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes. It’s one of the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, and it means your blood sugar is spiking because your body doesn’t have enough insulin. As your body tries to deal with this problem, it starts breaking down fatty acids—and acidic chemicals called ketones start accumulating. The acid acetone is the one responsible for this distinctive fruity smell. If you’re also experiencing fatigue, dry mouth, or labored breathing, get to the ER right away. Get to know these 10 silent signs of diabetes that are easy to overlook.
Less time between menstrual cycles
“One of the most important signs that a female reproductive system is declining is a subtle and slow reduction in the number of days between menstrual cycles,” says Shahin Ghadir, MD, an ob-gyn and a founding partner of the Southern California Reproductive Center. “For example, normal menstrual cycles are 28 days apart, but if they start to cycle every 27 days and then 26 days apart, this is the first signal that there is a reduction in fertility potential.” If this happens and you are trying to get pregnant, you might want to start IVF sooner rather than later. If pregnancy isn’t yet in your plans, Dr. Ghadir suggests looking into freezing your eggs. Whatever your particular situation, talk with your doctor. Cycles that are shorter than 20 days could also signal polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), as well as uterine polyps or a thyroid disorder.