We all experience various aches and pains from time to time, and most often they’re the kind that pass without the need for an appointment with your GP. However, it’s important to know which symptoms you shouldn’t be dismissive of. The following symptoms could indicate serious problems that require immediate attention, so if you do suffer from them, make sure you get medical help as soon as possible.
Sudden Intense Headache
It’s normal to suffer from the occasional mild headache, but sudden severe pains in any part of the head should never be ignored. This type of pain could be caused by a ruptured aneurysm – a blood vessel in your brain that has suddenly burst – and this requires immediate medical attention. Sudden intense headaches can also be a symptom of other serious health conditions, such as meningitis and cardiac cephalgia – a rare disorder in which reduced blood supply to the heart causes headache and chest pains.
Chest pain, or a feeling of uncomfortable pressure on your chest, can signal a heart attack. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and a delay in treatment can result in permanent damage to the heart. Often if your chest pain is associated with a heart attack or heart disease, it can be accompanied by other pains, such as pain radiating down the arm, and in the throat and jaw. You may also feel nausea and shortness of breath. If you experience any unusual chest pains, even less severe ones, you should see your doctor.
There are a number of health conditions which can cause unusual bleeding. Rectal bleeding can be a symptom of ulcers or colon cancer, while vaginal bleeding can be linked to gynaecologic cancers. Coughing up blood can be sign of lung cancer, and bloody vomit may be caused by stomach or oesophageal cancer. Any time you bleed without an obvious cause, you should have it checked out by your doctor. While it won’t necessarily be a symptom of something serious, the cause should always be investigated.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Sudden, noticeable weight loss that there is no obvious reason for can be a symptom of cancer. Unintentional loss of more than 5% of your body weight over a period of 6 to 12 months is generally considered a cause for concern. Such weight loss can sometimes be caused by depression but it could be caused by a serious illness. Either way you should see your GP. Make sure you pay attention to accompanying symptoms that your doctor should be informed of, such as tiredness, loss of appetite and a change in your toilet habits.
Shortness of Breath
Sudden shortness of breath can indicate a pulmonary embolism – when a blood clot prevents blood from reaching your lungs. In this case, you may also experience chest pain and you may cough up blood. Shortness of breath can also be a sign of other lung problems or a heart problem. Heart failure causes breathing difficulties because your heart is struggling to pump enough blood around your body.
Severe Abdominal Pain
Intense abdominal pain may be the result of an aortic aneurysm. This happens when the aorta – the main blood vessel that leads away from the heart – swells. You’ll need to get medical attention before it ruptures, because such large ruptures can cause massive internal bleeding which can be fatal. Abdominal pain can also be caused by stomach ulcers, and gallbladder and pancreas problems, all of which need attention.
Swelling in the Legs
Swelling of the legs can be caused by an accumulation of fluid in the extremities, which is associated with a number of conditions, the most worrying of which is heart failure. In this case, the fluid build-up is due to reduced blood flow out of the heart, which leads to the congestion which causes fluid to accumulate in the lower limbs, as well as in the abdomen. This symptom should not be ignored, especially if you find that it’s getting progressively worse. Heart failure is one of the most likely explanations for the swelling if you also experience chest tightness, shortness of breath and fatigue.
As a general rule, any symptoms that develop very quickly are a cause for concern. If they develop quickly, there’s a good chance they’re caused by a problem that needs to be treated quickly. Don’t hesitate to seek the medical attention you need, as delays in treating serious illnesses can sometimes cause permanent damage.
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