If you have ever been to the doctor only to learn that symptom causing you sleepless nights was nothing to worry about, you may be tempted to ignore some symptoms rather than be told that again. However, according to Cindy Parnes, M.D., founder and director of the New Jersey Women’s Wellness Center in Montavle, New Jersey warns, “paying attention to what seems like inconsequential complaints sometimes can prevent a trip to the ER or identify more serious issues.”
Which symptoms should cause you to seek a doctor’s attention right away? Below are the red flags you should never ignore:
Chest pain: If you feel a squeezing feeling in your chest, call 911. According to Parnes, “Women will take an aspirin, but they won’t call 911.” Although taking the aspirin is a good idea, it may be futile without the 911 call. If the pain is not as severe, but is recurrent, you still should call the doctor. Heart attacks are not always felt in the chest. Symptoms such as back pain, nausea, jaw pain or extreme fatigue all may indicate your heart is in distress. If you experience any of these, call 911 and say you are having a heart attack.
Severe Head Pain: If you have a headache that comes on suddenly and can only be described as the worst pain you’ve ever experienced in your life, call 911 immediately. You could possibly have an aneurysm, a weak area in the wall of an artery of an artery supplying blood to the brain. If the aneurysm ruptures, you could have a stroke or die from the bleeding into the brain. Never hesitate, call 911. Parnes says that although the symptoms may be similar to those of a migraine, including vomiting, light sensitivity and fainting, the pain in your head will be so severe you will hardly be able to stand it.
If you start having sudden headaches with regularity, call your doctor. Those could signal a brain tumor, problems with your eyesight or a number of other factors. The emergency is not as great as an aneurysm, but Parnes says tour doctor needs to rule out other problems.
Abdominal Bloating and Gassiness: If you have unusually significant bloating, loss of appetite, bleeding after menopause or a change in bowel habits, contact your doctor. Parnes says, “It’s the new onset of bloating and gas that concerns me. It’s not a one-day change. It’s a change that goes on consistently.”
Numbness in Your Hands of Feet: If you feel numbness, weakness or tingling in your hands or feet, or have lost strength – like having trouble climbing stairs – you could have a herniated or bulging disk in your vertebrae which is pressing on your nerve. Over time, that nerve may become compromised.
“If you don’t relieve the pressure on the nerve, you can end up with permanent neurological changes or damage,” Parnes warns. Call a neurologist or an orthopedist to discuss treatment options. Normally a doctor will wait to see if these symptoms will clear on their own, meanwhile you may need physical therapy, a steady diet of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, alternating heat and ice or maybe a cortisone injection. If those treatments don’t work, you may require surgery. Either way, do not put off getting attention.
Leg Pain with Swelling: If you notice swelling in your calf accompanied by painful tenderness in the area, either call your doctor or go to the nearest Emergency Room. “This requires immediate attention,” says Parnes, “and is not something you should wait on.”
The symptoms indicate a dangerous condition, a blood clot in your leg. If the blood clot breaks free and travels to your lung, it could be fatal. About 200,000 people a year die from pulmonary embolism, according to the Society of Interventional Radiology, a group that tracks these statistics. However, if the clot is treated quickly, the mortality rate is less than 10%. Patients with a history of blood clots are most susceptible, but anyone who has been immobile for a long period of time may develop a blood clot – which is why it’s a good idea to walk around on airplanes during long flights. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, discoloration of the legs, more visible veins and a warm spot on the leg.
Persistent Cough: If you have a cough you just can’t shake, get yourself to the doctor/ A cough that will not go away could mean many things including an infection, cancer of some type, cardiac distress, Gastro Intestinal Reflux Disease (GIRD) or bronchial or lung problems.
Outsized Fatigue: Everyone has a different energy level, especially as they age. But if you suddenly find you cannot maintain the pace of your life, your body might be trying to tell you something. Your doctor can test you for anemia, Lyme’s Disease or a malignancy. Your hormones might be out of balance. It could be the sign of a heart attack. In any case, do not ignore it. Go to your doctor and let him/her rule out the causes of your lethargy. It may very well be a simple problem that can be fixed so you will feel more like your old self in a very short time.