9 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you had a beary safe and great week. Dab the AIDS Bear is still on deployment with the US Army.
Today and tomorrow I am going to blog about 9 symptoms you should never ignore because aging is hard enough. But aging while living with HIV (or another chronic illness) can definitely complicate the process.
You wake up one morning with a fever. Or maybe you have a really bad neck ache. How do you know if a symptom is serious or not? The things that doctors are most concerned about are new symptoms that develop quickly, rather than things that develop over a long period of time.
Another warning sign? That uh-oh feeling that tells you something's not quite right. You know your body best. When you see or feel something different or just feel 'off,' pay attention; don't dismiss it.
Here are nine symptoms and what they might mean.
1. Sudden Intense Headache
The big worries: If you experience head pain unlike any you've had before, especially if it peaks in seconds to minutes in any part of the head, it could signal a ruptured aneurysm, a blood vessel in your brain that suddenly bursts, requiring immediate attention.
In addition, your doctor will want to rule out three other conditions:
Cardiac cephalgia: A rare disorder in which reduced blood supply to the heart manifests as a headache and can also cause chest pain and exhaustion with exertion.
Meningitis: A headache often accompanied by a stiff neck, fever and confusion or other changes in mental status.
Temporal Arteritis: A rare illness in which a person's immune cells invade the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the head, causing headache, low-grade fever or pain upon speaking or chewing. The reason temporal arteritis is such a concern is that it can result in the temporary or permanent loss of vision in one or both eyes. Steroids usually take care of the problem if treatment is prompt.
What else it might be: Shingles can cause pain in the forehead before the notorious skin reaction (shingles is a painful flare-up of the herpes zoster virus that lies dormant in anyone who's had chicken pox). Contrary to common belief, sudden severe headaches are unlikely to be a sign of a brain tumor. Rather, research shows that two-thirds of patients diagnosed with a brain tumor experienced tension headaches — dull, achy or pressure-like pain — that steadily worsened over a period of weeks to months.
2. Chest Pain
The big worries: Any intense discomfort, heaviness or pressure — like an elephant sitting on your chest — could spell heart attack. It may be combined with pain radiating down an arm, nausea and vomiting, sweating, and shortness of breath. Women can experience more subtle symptoms, like fatigue, a burning sensation or upper abdominal pain. In any case, call 911. If it is a heart attack, a delay could cause the heart muscle to be damaged. If these symptoms occur only during exertion, it could also be angina, which happens when the heart muscle temporarily doesn't get enough blood.
Sudden severe chest or upper-back pain (often described as a ripping sensation) can be caused by a tear in the aorta, known as aortic dissection, which requires immediate attention. Fortunately, this life-threatening condition occurs in only about three out of 100,000 people.
What else it might be: Perhaps 10 to 20 percent of cases of intense chest pain are due not to heart trouble but to gastrointestinal reflux disease [GERD]. Rarely, it could also signal esophageal spasm, an abnormal contraction of the muscles in the esophagus, which carries food from the throat to the stomach. Both conditions can be treated with medications, but it's always wise to go to the ER: It's a heart attack or angina until proven otherwise.
3. Unexplained Weight Loss
The big worries: Losing more than 5 percent of your body weight — without trying — over a period of six months could mean cancer: Weight loss is a symptom in up to 36 percent of cancers in older people. If you or a family member is suddenly losing weight after trying 400 times before, you have to ask, "Why is this time the charm?".
What else it might be: Endocrine disorders are a common cause of unintentional weight loss. Of those with an endocrine disorder (especially hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid), up to 11 percent experience weight loss. The condition also triggers restlessness, sweating, increased appetite and difficulty concentrating.
If your weight loss is accompanied by extreme thirst or hunger, fatigue and frequent urination, it could be a sign of diabetes.
Gastrointestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease cause weight loss as well — in addition to symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Depression and other psychiatric conditions could be to blame, too. Decreased appetite and weight loss are very common symptoms of depression. But patients with unexplained weight loss should undergo a workup to rule out general medical causes.
4. Unusual Bleeding
The big worries: Ulcers and colon cancer can cause rectal bleeding or black or tarry stools, says Andres Pardo-Agila, M.D., a family medicine physician at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. If you haven't had a colonoscopy recently, talk to your physician. Vaginal bleeding can be linked to gynecologic cancers. Bloody vomit can result from stomach or esophageal cancer, and people with lung cancer can cough up blood. Whenever you see blood where it shouldn't be, see a doctor.
What else it might be: Blood in the stool may be due to hemorrhoids, while blood in the urine may be the result of a bladder or kidney infection. Vaginal bleeding long after menopause may be due to the growth of benign polyps or fibroids. Vomiting blood can result from a tear in the blood vessels or an ulcer in the stomach or esophagus. And coughing up blood can happen with noncancerous conditions, like bronchitis, pneumonia or tuberculosis. There are many common reasons for seeing blood where you don't expect it, but it still has to be checked out and treated.
5. High or Persistent Fever
The big worries: Fever is your body's way of fighting infection. But fever of 103 degrees and higher warrants a trip to the doctor — period. It may indicate a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart chambers and valves) or meningitis, which may require antibiotics to clear up. A persistent low-grade fever — for several weeks — with no obvious cause is characteristic of some infections, including a sinus infection, and some cancers, like lymphoma and leukemia. Cancer is on the list of things we think about, but it is usually not the first thing.
What else it might be: Fever can be triggered by a virus, which, depending on your health and other symptoms, may require hospitalization.
Tomorrow I will blog about the other five symptoms you should never ignore.
Have a beary safe and great Saturday!
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,