HEALTH – Every doctor will tell you that prevention is better than cure, and that catching illnesses early makes them easier to treat. Most people try to keep up with the latest guidelines for identifying serious diseases, for instance by seeking help if a mole starts getting larger because it could signify skin cancer. There are all sorts of other health concerns, however, that frequently get under the radar because we mistake the signs for symptoms of minor infections, stress or tiredness.
Untreated, minor health problems like these can sap our day-to-day energy over the course of years, and sometimes they can become dangerous. Could you be missing the symptoms of something you really should see a doctor about?
There’s only so much you can do about a heart attack when it happens, but there’s a lot you can do to reduce the main risk factors of poor diet and lack of exercise – and preventative medicine could save your life if you can identify when you need to seek help.
Restrictions in the coronary arteries often manifest as chest pain, which can feel like indigestion and is more likely to develop when you’re stressed or physically active. Pain that spreads to your left arm is particularly likely to indicate a cardiovascular problem.
If you snore frequently and loudly, you could be at risk of sleep apnea, which can cause heart problems. If you suddenly start feeling exhausted by physical activity that used to be easy, especially if you also start suffering from sudden cold sweats or feelings of nausea, you should seek medical advice.
One of the common chronic health problems is type 2 diabetes. In the early stages, it can usually be controlled by diet, but when individuals are unaware they have the condition they can be at serious risk. The first symptom is usually fatigue accompanied by increased feelings of hunger or thirst and a need to urinate more frequently. Most people know that sudden weight gain is a cause for concern, but less well known is that diabetes can also cause weight loss. Nausea and blurred vision are also common symptoms, and a regular eye test can help with diagnosis.
Another common metabolic problem which can throw the whole body off balance is having an underactive or overactive thyroid. Again, fatigue and weight gain are common symptoms, as are insomnia, dry skin, thinning hair, diarrhea and unusual sensitivity to heat or cold. You only need a simple blood test to see if your thyroid is functioning normally, and if you get a normal thyroid panel you can start investigating other possible reasons for your symptoms.
Problems with the gut are a lot more common than you might think because most people don’t like to talk about them. We all have stomach upsets sometimes, but when should you start to worry? As a rule, if you have any feelings of nausea or soreness in your stomach that last for more than two weeks, you should seek medical advice. The same applies if you have diarrhea for more than two weeks or if your abdomen becomes painfully bloated. Even feelings of indigestion that seem to go on regardless of what you eat are cause for concern, especially if they’re accompanied by a burning sensation. Symptoms like this could indicate chronic gastritis or inflammatory bowel disease, which can become dangerous if left untreated. Finally, if you frequently bleed when you defecate, don’t just put it down to hemorrhoids – stay on the safe side by getting tested for colorectal cancer.
Immune system disorders
Sometimes your body can be so good at fighting a disease that it tries to fight them even when they’re not there, attacking innocent targets instead. This is the mechanism behind allergies, which affect millions of Americans. If you suffer from frequent indigestion, skin rashes or hives, localized swelling or shortness of breath, it’s worth getting tested to see if an allergy could be behind it.
The best known chronic disease linked to allergies is asthma, but immune disorders also cause rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma and other dangerous diseases. If you have allergies you are more likely to be affected by illnesses like these, so you should carefully monitor your general health and ask your doctor to consider them when making a diagnosis if you suffer from ongoing feelings of weakness, stiffness or fatigue.
Being alert to possibilities like these helps you to take a more proactive role in managing your own health, and means that you should be better able to protect yourself from developing serious health problems.