Symptoms not to ignore

Posted on 22 October 2014

While we can’t run to the doctor every time we have a headache or chest pain, it’s important to know when we should seek medical help. Here are 10 symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.

1. A cough that just won’t clear up
Yes, you may start coughing during the flu season and it may stay around for a few days or weeks but if it just won’t go away, then it’s time to book an appointment with your doctor. A persistent cough could be one of several things – TB, a chest infection and at worst, lung cancer. But before you start panicking, check in with your doctor.

2. Blinding headaches
Sometimes a headache sticks around for a few days, but if you find that you’re unable to go to work or you’re constantly taking painkillers, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. Often there’s a simple fix like getting new glasses, changing your diet, exercising more or it’s just a side effect of medication you’re taking. Nevertheless, get it seen to by your doctor.

3. Chest pain
It simply be a nasty bout of heartburn but it could also mean your heart is in trouble. If you find that the chest pain comes with pain down your left arm it’s important that you get to your nearest emergency centre – you could be having a heart attack. And if you aren’t? ‘We doctors don’t mind false alarms because at the end of the day it’s better to have it that way than any other way,’ says Dr John Gardiner, a neurologist at Mediclinic Constantiaberg.

4. A new mole
You must always keep an eye on your moles for any changes in colour, shape or size. It’s very important to see your doctor or dermatologist if you notice any new moles – they won’t go away and could turn malignant in the long run .

5. Night sweats
It’s not normal to sweat at night unless it’s a sweltering summer’s day and you’ve left your windows closed. Night sweats can be a symptom of TB, Aids or Hodgkin’s disease, a lymphatic cancer. Before you panic though, night sweats can also be a side effect of medication so it’s best you see your doctor as soon as possible to rule out that possibility.

6. Difficulty in breathing
If you suddenly find you’re having trouble breathing it could be anything from asthma to an allergic reaction. Just remember, it could become life threatening so don’t ignore this symptom – see your doctor or go to your nearest emergency centre.

7. Lumps
It could be a swollen gland or a bump under the skin – don’t ignore these. Rather see your doctor and find out it’s an infection, pimple or boil than something more serious like cancer. And, of course, women should be checking their breasts once a month for lumps.

8. Sudden muscle weakness
The key word here is sudden – if you find you have sudden difficulty in standing, walking or balancing, have it seen to. Muscle weakness could be, among other things, Parkinson’s disease or a stroke.

9. Frequent urination
If you find you’re getting up to go to the bathroom three or four times at night, something could be wrong. It could be a prostate problem (for men), a urinary tract infection or even the onset of type 2 diabetes.

10. Any change in vision
Our vision naturally deteriorates as we get older but if it suddenly becomes blurry or changes in any other noticeable way, you should see an optometrist or neurologist right away.

Before you start panicking always ask yourself if the symptoms have come on suddenly. Be prepared when you see your doctor – try to have an idea of when the symptoms started, when they are at their worst and if something is aggravating them. Often it’s a simple cause and not the worst-case scenario. Just remember, early detection and intervention could make all the difference. Health24 lists a few more symptoms you don’t want to ignore.

Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.