To get guidance on what those might be, we checked with Cindy Parnes, M.D., founder and director of the New Jersey Women’s Wellness Center in Montvale, New Jersey.
She noted that “paying attention to what seems like inconsequential complaints sometimes can prevent a trip to the ER or identify more serious issues.” So when should you definitely call the doctor? Here are red flags you should never ignore:
If, however, the pain is less severe, but it keeps recurring, then you should call your doctor. “You have to make a judgment,” Parnes says. But don’t assume a heart attack is always felt in the chest. Such symptoms as back pain, nausea, jaw pain, or extreme fatigue (like you can’t make your bed without then needing a nap) all may indicate that your heart is in distress. If you are experiencing any of these, call 911 and say you’re having a heart attack.
Severe head pain
Parnes says this is different than a migraine, though similar symptoms, including vomiting, light sensitivity, and fainting, can occur. But the pain in your head will be so gripping that you will barely be able to stand it.
If you start having headaches with regularity and they come on suddenly, then call your doctor. Those could be the sign of 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, your doctor needs to rule out other problems.
Abdominal pain and gassiness
But Parnes knew that this red flag could mean something serious so she ordered a blood test and ultrasound. Her patient was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “It’s the new onset of bloating and gas that concerns me,” Parnes says. “It’s not a one-day change. It’s a change that goes on consistently.”
If you have unusually significant bloating, loss of appetite, bleeding after menopause, or a change in bowel habits, contact your doctor.
Numbness in hands or feet
“If you don’t relieve the pressure on the nerve, you can end up with permanent neurological changes or damage,” Parnes warns. Call an orthopedist or a neurologist to discuss treatment options. Usually a doctor will wait to see if these symptoms will clear on their own, but in the meantime, you may need physical therapy, a steady diet of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (like Alleve or some other medication), alternating heat and ice, or perhaps a cortisone injection. If those treatments don’t do the trick, you may need to have surgery. Either way, do not wait to get attention.
Leg pain with swelling
The symptoms indicate a blood clot in your leg, and it’s a dangerous condition, because if the clot breaks free and travels to your lung, it could be fatal. Pulmonary embolisms kill about 200,000 people a year, according to the Society of Interventional Radiology, a group that tracks such statistics. The clot can block the oxygen supply in your lung.
However, if it is treated quickly (usually with blood thinners and careful watching), the mortality rate is less than 10 percent. Patients with a history of blood clots are most susceptible, but anyone who has been immobile for a long time may develop a blood clot (that’s why it’s a good idea to walk around the plane on long flights.) Other symptoms include shortness of breath, discoloration of the legs, more visible veins, and a warm spot on the leg.
In some patients, a clot is the first sign of a malignancy in the body or other underlying medical conditions. An ER may not be necessary if you can get in to see your doctor as soon as the clot is discovered.
A persistent cough
- an infection
- cancer of some type
- cardiac distress
- Gastro Intestinal Reflux Disease (GIRD)
- bronchial or lung problems
“It should be investigated,” says Parnes.
Bleeding after menopause
Patients come to me and say thinks like, ‘I think I’ve been exercising too much.’ You don’t get bleeding from exercise,” she says. But endometrial polyps may cause bleeding. Unbalanced hormones may cause it. An atrophying uterus can cause bleeding. And it could be a sign of endometrial cancer. Going to your doctor will allow you to have tests that can rule all that out. Or, it could be the trip that makes a life-saving diagnosis. The bottom line: if you are bleeding, notify your doctor immediately.
source: huffingtonpost.com By Andra Atkins