Some symptoms are easy to identify as potentially serious health problems. Chest pain, high fever, and bleeding are all typically signs that something is affecting your well-being.
Your body can also warn you of trouble in subtler ways. Some women may not understand these signs or realize these symptoms require medical attention.
Read on to learn about 10 symptoms that might indicate a serious health issue.
Breast swelling can be normal. Many women’s breasts swell before their periods or during pregnancy. However, if you have unusual or new swelling, talk to your doctor. Rapid swelling or discoloration (purple or red spots) may be signs of inflammatory breast cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of advanced breast cancer that develops quickly. Breast infections can also have very similar symptoms. It’s important to see your doctor if you see skin changes or other changes in your breast.
Abdominal bloating is a common menstrual symptom. Some food sensitivities can also make you feel bloated for a day or two. However, abdominal bloating that lasts more than a week can be an early sign of ovarian cancer.
Other ovarian cancer symptoms include:
- feeling full quickly after eating
- difficulty eating
- a frequent need to urinate
- a persistent lack of energy
- postmenopausal bleeding
- abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge in premenopausal women
These symptoms are easy to overlook. Many cases of ovarian cancer aren’t identified until later stages. Talk your gynecologist if you have unusual or persistent bloating.
Stool color can vary. It depends on the foods you eat and the medications you take. For example, iron supplements and diarrhea medications may turn your stool black or tarry.
Black stool suggests you have bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Maroon-colored or bloody stool suggests bleeding lower in the GI tract. These are signs you should see your doctor to check for bleeding.
Bleeding may be caused by:
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- other GI conditions
It’s normal to feel winded after climbing up the stairs or running to catch a bus. But being short of breath after a light activity could be an early sign of a serious lung or heart problem. It’s important to discuss any new shortness of breath with a doctor.
One potential cause of shortness of breath is coronary ischemia. Coronary ischemia is a lack of blood flow in the heart muscle caused by a partial or complete arterial blockage. Both a partial and complete arterial blockage may also cause a heart attack.
Go to an emergency room as soon as you can if you have shortness of breath and begin to experience:
- chest pain or discomfort
Every so often, you likely experience bouts of tiredness due to lack of sleep or something else. But if you’re feeling exhausted constantly, it might be time to see a doctor. Constant tiredness could be a sign of a medical problem.
Conditions that cause fatigue include:
- liver failure
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- kidney failure
- cardiovascular disease
- thyroid disease
- sleep apnea
A doctor should assess new chronic fatigue symptoms. You may be able to get help.
It’s normal to lose weight if you’ve changed your diet or started working out. Weight loss on its own can be concerning, though. Talk to your doctor if your weight drops for no apparent reason.
Possible causes of unexplained weight loss include:
- celiac disease
- heart disease
- thyroid disease
Facial hair growth isn’t just a cosmetic concern. Growth of hair on the chest or face is usually caused by elevated levels of androgens (male hormones). This may be a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. Other symptoms associated with PCOS include:
- adult acne
- irregular periods
- high blood pressure
Occasional stomach problems shouldn’t be a major cause of concern. However chronic stomach problems could be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Symptoms of IBS include:
- abdominal pain and cramps
IBS is more common in women than men. It’s easy to confuse its symptoms with an upset stomach or a bad meal. You should see a doctor if you experience these symptoms regularly. IBS is treatable with changes to your diet and lifestyle. Medication can also help with symptoms.
Stomach symptoms can sometimes be a sign of other serious health problems. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing ongoing issues with your digestive system.
Menopause occurs in middle age when your body stops ovulating. This causes you to stop having monthly menstrual cycles. Menopause refers to the time when your menstrual periods have stopped for at least a year.
After menopause, some women continue to experience symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. But if you have vaginal bleeding after menopause, see your doctor as soon as possible. Vaginal bleeding after menopause is never normal. It could be a sign of a serious health problem, including:
- uterine fibroids
All adults should know the symptoms of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). TIAs are sometimes referred to as “mini-strokes.” Unlike a stroke, a TIA does not cause permanent injury to the brain. However, about one-third of people who have had a TIA will have a stroke later on.
Symptoms of a TIA or stroke include sudden:
- weakness, often only on one side
- muscle slackness, often only one side
- lost vision, in one or both eyes
- trouble speaking
If you have any of these symptoms, get help immediately. Fast help can reduce the risk of long-term side effects.