Awareness February 8, 2020
5 Everyday Symptoms – That Could Be Serious
Most of us experience at least some of these common health warning signs. This year, don’t ignore them. This Mediclinic doctor explains how serious they could be.
A tingling sensation in your arm. Frequently getting up to pee at night. Back pain. You may associate these seemingly innocuous bodily behaviours with symptoms of low levels of stress, or simply the physical effects of ageing. But don’t ignore them for too long – they could be early warning signs of something far more serious.
Dr Margaret Badenhorst, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Brits, explains that sometimes, the most serious health issues begin as subtle symptoms. Here she discusses how everyday symptoms can point to major health problems, and how to intervene before they become serious.
- Does your leg hurt?
Pain in just one leg could stem from a pulled muscle, says Dr Badenhorst. But check to see if the area is also swollen and warm, as this could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when a blood clot, or thrombus, forms in one or more of the deep veins in the leg.
Signs of DVT should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible, she says, who may prescribe a course of anticoagulants, or blood thinners. If it goes untreated, however, the blood clot may break loose and travel towards the lungs or heart, causing a pulmonary embolism or stroke.
- How’s your sex life?
There are many potential causes of erectile dysfunction (ED), says Dr Badenhorst, including anxiety, depression and stress. But there is an often overlooked medical reason too: blocked arteries in the heart that prevent adequate blood flow to your penis.
If you are experiencing symptoms of ED, it may in fact be good news, she says, as these early warning signs are known to precede the onset of heart symptoms by at least two years. This means the right interventions – by a general practitioner or cardiologist – can stop cardiac disease in its tracks.
- Are you losing weight?
Congratulations! Losing weight by following a regimen of regular exercise healthy eating is to be expected and applauded, says Dr Badenhorst – but if you’re not trying to lose the kilos, it could mean you’re in the early stages of a serious illness.
Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, can lead to rapid and unexplained weight loss, she explains. How rapid? Anything over 5% of your weight within six to 12 months, when you haven’t changed your diet or exercise habits, should be checked by a doctor immediately.
- How often do you pee?
Frequent urination is most often the result of a urinary tract infection, or problems with your kidneys or ureter. But it’s also a well-known and common symptom of Type 2 diabetes, explains Dr Badenhorst. Fortunately, T2D can be reversed, if you make the necessary lifestyle changes with guidance from your GP, she says – and the sooner you schedule a check-up, the better.
- Is your arm tingling?
A tingling sensation in one arm could be caused by a pinched nerve, bursitis – which affects the sacs cushioning the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints – a herniated disc or a torn rotator cuff, says Dr Badenhorst.
But if that sensation is accompanied by a numb feeling in your chest, this is a common symptom of a heart attack. With quick and efficient emergency medical care, you can survive a heart attack with no lingering after-effects. Call 084 124 for real help, real fast, right now.