The body has signs and symptoms that indicate that you need to seek care. Three key indicators that tend to be ignored are weight change, pain and fatigue.
Sudden weight gain or weight loss should be reported to your physician. Some people delay reporting weight loss, but weight loss may indicate hormonal changes, infections, stomach or intestinal problems, cancers and more. Unexpected weight gain should also be reported to your physician. Sudden weight gain may indicate that the body is retaining extra fluid, not body fat, and could be signs of a health condition needing treatment.
The second most common symptom is ignored is pain. Pain is a natural alarm system for the body. There are many sources of pain; a significant one is chest pain. This may be the warning sign of an acute or life-threatening event such as a heart attack. Chest discomfort may also originate from a gastrointestinal problem, commonly referred to as heartburn. Chest pain may also result from a musculoskeletal or blood disorder, anxiety or drug therapy. Don't self-diagnose, report your pain to your physician immediately to be treated appropriately.
Another common pain is abdominal pain, which can be more vague than chest pain. It may be caused by a problem in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract such as ulcers, gastritis or diverticular disease. The source could also be the reproductive or urinary tract system (GU). Fibroid tumors, which are usually benign, and kidney stones can cause significant abdominal pain. Drugs, food poisoning, and certain musculoskeletal and vascular problems can also present with symptoms of abdominal pain.
Back pain is a third type of pain that may be ignored. Although the pain may be caused by problems in the spine, the GI and GU systems can also cause back pain. Other sources include muscular problems and/or growth problems. Pain is a significant symptom. Any new pain should be promptly investigated by your healthcare provider.
A third symptom that is often ignored is fatigue. This is not the same as weakness, which involves the muscles. It may result from physical overexertion, long term emotional stress and/or sleep deprivation. It may also result from physical disorders such as viral infections, endocrine disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) or nervous system disorders such as multiple sclerosis. It can also be a symptom of psychological disorders such as depression. Fatigue may result from a change in metabolism in which nutrients are lacking due to rapid usage, ineffective replacement, not enough hormones, or inadequate food intake. Fatigue can be a symptom of a long list of medical problems such as anemia, congestive heart failure, diabetes, infection, high blood pressure, kidney failure, heart attack, thyroid disorder and many more. If feelings of fatigue are new to you, report this symptom to your healthcare provider.
Although many of the above symptoms may be vague, they are important enough to report and discuss with your physician or healthcare provider. Many disorders can be treated more successfully with early detection. Stay tuned-in to your body. These warning signs are your body giving you an opportunity to seek care and reach your healthiest potential.
Linda Lochbaum is a Wound, Ostomy and Continence Clinical Nurse Specialist at Mount Nittany Medical Center.