It is common knowledge that bleeding, chest pain, and high fever warrant emergency medical care. But what about less known symptoms, such as the need to urinate more, or having to strain to use the toilet? Are they serious? Here are nine symptoms that deserve your attention.
Shortness of Breath
Chest pain is not the only telltale sign of a heart attack. Everyone’s symptoms are unique. For example, having a hard time catching your breath after an easy walk may be an early sign of coronary ischemia, a partial or complete blockage of an artery that carries blood to the heart. (A complete arterial blockage can cause a heart attack.) Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience chest pain or shortness of breath. Other symptoms, such as pressure or tightness in your chest, extreme shortness of breath, or dizziness, warrant a visit to the emergency department.
Unintended Weight Loss
Unless you are actively trying to slim down, unexplained weight loss is a cause for concern. Such weight loss is one of the first signs of many diseases, including cancer. It is important to see your doctor and let them know if you are losing weight unintentionally.
Bloody or Black Stools
Stool color can change from day to day based on the foods you are eating and the medicines you are taking. For example, eating beets can cause your stool to be alarmingly red. Likewise, iron supplements and diarrhea medicines such as Pepto-Bismol may temporarily turn your stool black or tarry. Anything in the brown or green spectrum is normal, but black, bloody, or lightly colored stool,can be a potential indicator of a significant underlying problem and deserves prompt medical evaluation..
Black stool may suggest you are bleeding somewhere in your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Maroon-colored or bloody stool may suggest bleeding lower in the GI tract. See your doctor to check for bleeding, hemorrhoids, or ulcers. Lightly colored stools may signal a problem in the liver or bile ducts. If you notice unusual changes not explained by medication use, see your doctor immediately for help.
Frequent urination can be a sign of diabetes or prostate enlargement. People with diabetes urinate frequently because the kidneys are working overtime to eliminate excess sugar from the bloodstream. Potential symptoms of prostate problems include decreased flow when urinating, pelvic-area discomfort, and blood in your urine or semen. Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is common among older men, but symptoms should never be ignored because they can be identical to those of other, more serious conditions..
This symptom can be troubling for two reasons. First, constipation can lead to excessive pushing and straining when trying to have a bowel movement. This increases your chance of developing hemorrhoids, which can cause bleeding around the rectum. Second, constipation may signal that something is blocking stool from exiting properly. Although occasional constipation is normal, and can be more common after age 50, it could also indicate a tumor, a polyp, or some other condition involving either obstruction or abnormal colon motility. Early diagnosis of colon problems is important, given the risks of colon cancer.
Other than the obvious concerns regarding sexual performance, erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a sign of an even more serious problem, such as cardiovascular disease. ED may also be caused by increased stress or depression, which can be resolved with therapy or medicine. Men sometimes have a hard time talking to their doctors about this kind of problem, but in most cases, there is a solution. Do not be shy about mentioning erectile dysfunction to your physician. It is a condition that doctors treat often; there is no need for embarrassment.
Many men experience occasional heartburn after a greasy burger or a big pile of spaghetti, but if it happens after every meal, it might be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In people who have GERD (commonly known as acid reflux), stomach acid flows backward, up the esophagus. If left untreated, stomach acid can erode the tissues of the esophagus and cause irritation or ulcers. In a small subset of patients, chronic GERD can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
Symptoms of GERD may also mimic other rare but treatable problems of the esophagus, including sphincter dysfunction. Occasionally, a man may think he has heartburn but is actually experiencing heart problems. See your doctor if you have a long-standing complaint of heartburn.
Chronic, loud snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea—a condition in which the muscles in your throat relax and temporarily block your airway while you are sleeping. This can cause breathing problems and disrupt sleep patterns. These constant interruptions may leave you feeling sleepy or fatigued, even after getting adequate hours of sleep for several nights. If left untreated, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can lead to pulmonary hypertension, a serious lung disease that can lead to heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms. Not surprisingly, snoring, and obstructive sleep apnea are linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Most men think breast cancer is a women’s disease, but that is not the case. In fact, each year more than 1,000 men — mostly older men between 60 and 70 years of age — are diagnosed with breast cancer. If you feel a lump or thickening of tissue in the breast, or if your nipple darkens, turns red, or begins to have discharge, see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment are just as important for men with breast cancer as they are for women with the disease.