Beaufort Memorial’s Living Well Blog brings health and wellness to Lowcountry living.

9 Symptoms to Never Ignore

Posted by Living Well Team on Mar 6, 2017 9:01:00 AM

“I simply don’t have time to get sick,” you mutter to yourself as you bolt out the door at 7 a.m. to head to work. Maybe you’ve been exhausted for weeks. Or you’ve had a constant, nagging backache. Or that swollen gland on your neck hasn’t gone away.

Whatever it is, you say it’s nothing and convince yourself it will go away on its own. It’s easy to play the wait-and-see game when you’re preoccupied with so many other things. But when are simple aches and pains, lumps and bumps indicative of something more? 

Here are nine seemingly minor symptoms you should never ignore.

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What it might mean:

While fatigue can result from stress or too little sleep, it can also be symptomatic of a medical condition like anemia, heart, thyroid or liver disease, or depression..

What to do:

If you’ve suffered from fatigue for more than two weeks, you need to address it, said Dan Smith, M.D., a board-certified family medicine specialist at Beaufort Memorial Lowcountry Medical Group. ““Do not delay seeing your primary care physician,,” he said. “What may be a minor problem can develop into a serious condition that could have been avoided.”

Unexplained Weight Loss 

What it might mean:

Stepping on the scale to discover you’ve lost 10 pounds without even trying only sounds like a dream come true. If you haven’t changed your eating habits and you’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight, it can be a serious red flag. ”Do not ignore early signs,” Dr. Smith said. “Many of these serious conditions can be cured or managed if diagnosed and treated early.”

What to do:

Go to your doctor. This calls for a prompt investigation.


What it might mean:

If you’ve fainted or felt extremely dizzy after quickly standing up, you may suffer from more than embarrassment. 

Called syncopy, it can be a symptom of internal hemorrhaging from an ulcer, high blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes, severe dehydration, anemia or serious heart irregularities such as arrhythmias.

What can be done:

Your primary care physician may order tests to check your blood sugar level and blood count and to monitor your heart.

Blood in Urine

What it might mean:

There are many causes of bleeding into the urinary tract, including bladder infection, but another cause is cancer, which may be in the kidney, ureter, bladder or prostate. At the time when they are still curable, these cancers often do not cause pain. 

What can be done:

In addition to a urinalysis, your physician may order an ultrasound of your kidneys or a cystoscopy to see the interior lining of the bladder. If a suspicious mass is found, a biopsy usually will be performed.

Numbness and Weakness in Hand or Arm

What it might mean:

You might pass it off as carpal tunnel syndrome. But it could be a transient ischemic attack, a red light warning signal of a stroke. Other warning signs include numbness on one side of your face, slurred speech and vertigo.

What to do:

Go to the emergency room. Doctors can now use a drug called tissue plasminogen activator to dissolve clots and restore blood flow to the brain. But the drug must be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms to allow a chance for full recovery. And that doesn’t mean you can wait two hours and 45 minutes to get to the hospital. Given drive time and prep time, every minute counts. The best solution is to call 911 so the emergency response team can begin treating you in the ambulance and coordinate with the hospital for your arrival.

Back Pain

Everyday back sprains from heaving heavy boxes or picking up squirming toddlers don’t pose a big worry. But be on the lookout for back pain that’s constant and doesn’t change with movement, which can be a symptom of kidney disease, blood-borne infection or an aortic aneurysm. 

What to do:

To help your doctor make the diagnosis, be sure to describe other symptoms you might be experiencing, such as paleness, a rapid pulse, chills, fever or flu-like signs.

Lower Leg Pain 

What it might mean:

If you suffer pain in the back of your calf after a long car trip, an airplane ride or a period of bed rest, it might be a symptom of a blood clot. It’s possible that a piece of the clot could break free and end up in your lungs, which can be fatal. If the pain occurs with walking and then is alleviated by rest, it could be peripheral vascular disease, a marker for heart disease.

What can be done:

Your doctor may order a venous ultrasound to detect a blood clot. Blood clots can be treated with the prescription drugs heparin or warfarin. Peripheral vascular disease usually can be remedied with lifestyle changes—eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising at least 30 minutes a day three or more days per week. More severe cases may require medication, angioplasty, stent placement or bypass surgery.

Doctor Referral Service

Establishing a relationship with a primary care doctor is essential to maintaining good health. If you need a doctor, call our referral service at 843-522-5585.

Photo courtesy of Spring 2013 issue of Living Well 


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