- By Micah Dorfner
Don’t ignore these 7 serious symptoms
Being aware of what’s normal for your body is an important factor in keeping yourself healthy. If a problem arises, you can decide whether to see a health care provider. However, sometimes symptoms are mild, and it’s hard to decide whether to seek medical attention.
Have you ever experienced unusual symptoms and didn’t know if hospitalization was necessary? Sometimes, activities provoke certain symptoms, such as shortness of breath while running, but other symptoms may come out of nowhere, such as sudden weight loss. According to Dr. Robert Key, a Family Medicine physician for Mayo Clinic Health System, there are seven signs and symptoms that deserve immediate medical attention:
Having a fever isn’t anything out of the ordinary. But if it’s high or persistent, you may want to take action. Fever seems to play a role in signaling and fighting infection. This infection could be something as minor as a urinary tract infection or something as serious as tuberculosis. Fever also can be caused by cancerous (malignant) conditions, such as lymphomas or a new medication you’re taking. If you have experienced a fever for more than three days or your temperature is 103 F (39.4 C) or higher, you should call your health care provider right away.
- Flashes of light
If you’re experiencing bright spots in your vision or flashes of light, it might be the start of a migraine. Disturbances to vision caused by migraines typically last for about 20 to 60 minutes. Sudden flashes of light could signal retinal detachment. Monitoring the type of interference to your vision and how long it lasts can help determine what the problem is, although immediate medical care can help prevent permanent vision loss.
- Unexpected shortness of breath
Feeling short of breath can be associated with strenuous exercise, extreme temperatures, obesity and high altitude. Aside from these examples, shortness of breath is a likely sign of a medical problem. It’s crucial to your health to seek emergency medical care if your symptoms are sudden and severe.Shortness of breath can be a sign you have a more serious illness, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), and other heart and lung problems. You may also feel short of breath if you are experiencing a panic attack — a sudden episode of intense anxiety that triggers severe physical reactions when there’s no real danger or apparent cause.
- Feeling full too quickly
If you made dinner last night and felt full after only a few bites, you may be experiencing early satiety. Early satiety can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, bloating or weight loss. Report these symptoms to your health care provider. Early satiety can be caused by various factors, including gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, or peptic ulcers. In extreme cases, it can be caused by pancreatic cancer.
- Changes in bowel habits
While what’s considered normal regarding bowel habits varies by person, it’s important to monitor what’s normal for you. Sudden and unexplained bowel habits could signal a bacterial infection, such as campylobacter or salmonella, or a viral parasitic infection. Irritable bowel disease and colon cancer also could change your bowel habits. If you experience bloody, black or tarry-colored stools, persistent diarrhea or constipation, or unexplained urges to have a bowel movement, contact your health care provider.
- Unexplained weight loss
Losing weight and not having to work for it may sound wonderful. However, unexplained weight loss can be associated with overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), diabetes, depression, liver disease, cancer or malabsorption disorders that interfere with how the body absorbs nutrients. If, in the past six to 12 months, you have unintentionally lost more than 10 pounds or more than 5 percent of your body weight, and you’re not obese, talk to your health care provider.
- Personality changes or confusion
Personality changes can be caused by infection, poor nutrition, mental health conditions or medications. Symptoms that deserve medical attention include behavior changes; difficulty focusing, sustaining or shifting attention; and poor thinking skills.
“If you’re experiencing any of these concerning symptoms, contact your health care provider,” says Dr. Key.