Chest pain, breathlessness, pain in the abdomen – these are symptoms that we know should be discussed with a doctor. However, there are certain symptoms that are sometimes overlooked by patients as either being normal or as being due to a dietary change on a change in weather.
The ones listed below are little known symptoms that you should also be aware of so that you may seek medical attention sooner rather than later.
#1 High and persistent fever
Fever is a phenomenon that occurs in the body when it is attempting to fight an infection. The infection can either be a bacterial one or a viral one among numerous other causes.
Most fevers often settle down with simple paracetamol combined with home remedies or a course of antibiotics. Viral fevers can last up to 5 days and bacterial fevers a little longer. However, some fevers do not necessarily subside and a persistent fever can be an indication of a more serious underlying condition.
For example, individuals who have a low grade fever particularly in the evenings that is associated with a loss of weight may be suffering from tuberculosis. Similarly, certain cancers such as lymphoma may present that way.
The recent years have seen an increase in the number of viral fevers particularly Dengue fever. Often, the fever that accompanies this condition lasts anywhere between 5 to 7 days. Persistent fever beyond this requires investigation into other causes.
If you are suffering from a fever that has lasted more than 3 to 4 days and is often above 100°F then make sure you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
#2 Unexplained weight Loss
Weight loss can be broadly classified as healthy and unhealthy weight loss. Some individuals looking to lose weight may start a very strict diet and exercise plan in order to do so. Such plans often result in a particular amount of weight loss that is perceived by both the individuals and their treating physicians as healthy.
However, there are certain conditions where a person can lose weight for no reason whatsoever. While some might think that this is a blessing in disguise, in reality it may actually indicate something rather sinister. For example, young women may notice significant weight loss associated with fatigue if they have an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
Other conditions that can cause weight loss include diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis and cancer.
If you have noticed a significant amount of weight loss (approximately 10% of your body weight in six months) then make sure you see your physician as soon as possible.
#3 New onset confusion or change in personality
A 60-year-old man was normally fit and well once presented to a Doctor’s clinic with a complete change in his behavior. His family stated that he had started to speak a rather erratically and was not responding to them when he was asked questions. In addition, he had begun to urinate wherever he felt like it including the couch and the bed.
A CT scan of his head demonstrated the presence of a bleed in the front aspect of the brain. Following treatment of this, he recovered back to normal.
A change in an individual’s personality or new onset confusion is a symptom that must be taken seriously. Family members are close friends are often the best judges of change in character and must accompany the patient when they visit a doctor.
There are of course other reasons for the change in personality other than a bleed in the brain. Low levels of sodium in the blood stream, the presence of an infection and dehydration are common causes that are seen in elderly individuals. Younger individuals who develop a change in personality may have an infection of the brain such as viral encephalitis.
If a close family friend or a loved one has changed the way they behave suddenly, please make sure that they seek medical attention as soon as possible.
#4 Flashes of light
We have already discussed the implications of sudden loss of vision elsewhere on our website.
Similarly, visualisation of flashes of light or bright spots can sometimes indicate an underlying problem with the retina (the back of the eye that processes images) and is one of the important symptoms you should not ignore. A condition called retinal detachment can sometimes present this way and requires immediate medical attention.
Some people notice a ‘golden shower’ of lights associated with headache on one side of the head. This is often a symptom of migraine and may require painkillers to treat it.
If you notice these bright spots are flashes of light that are not normal for you, then make sure you seek medical attention immediately as any delay may cause visual loss (which could be permanent).
#5 Abdominal bloating
A large number of patients that come to clinic often complain of a bloated abdomen and fullness after eating small amounts of food. In the world of clinical medicine, this phenomenon is known as ‘early satiety’ which means ‘early satisfaction’.
If early satiety is accompanied with belching, nausea and vomiting, it may indicate underlying stomach problems. The most common problem is gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (or GERD) which is a phenomenon where acid in the stomach moves up into the food pipe.
A rare cause of this phenomenon includes cancer of the pancreas. If you experience abdominal bloating that seems to be troubling your day-to-day life, make sure you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The above describe subtle symptoms that could indicate a serious underlying problem. These are 5 symptoms that you should not ignore. Always make sure you seek timely medical attention if you develop any of these symptoms.