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Ten Symptoms Texans Should Not Ignore

Aug 17, 2007
Everyone in Dallas, Houston and throughout the rest of Texas feels an occasional symptom or two from flu, cold, allergy or whatever is going around. But, when the symptoms become persistent, they could even become life threatening. Individuals who feel chest or abdominal pain, or experience unexplained bleeding, should seek immediate medical care. There are other symptoms that are less well known which, if you develop them, you should seek immediate medical care. Here are 10 symptoms that you should not ignore:

1. Unexplained weight loss
Experiencing a 5% weight loss in a month, or a 10% weight loss within 6-12 months, could be a symptom of a number of different conditions, including an over-active thyroid, depression, liver disease, cancer or other non-cancerous disorders which might interfere with how your body absorbs nutrients.

2. Persistent fever
Registering a persistent low-grade fever of more than 100.4 degree F should be evaluated if it lasts for a week or more. A low-grade fever can signal an underlying infection. Some cancers and other medical conditions can cause prolonged, persistent fever. A fever accompanied by violent chills, or higher than 103degree F, should be evaluated right away.

3. Shortness of breath
Gasping for air or wheezing are medical emergencies. Causes can vary widely and can include asthma, heart problems, anxiety, panic attacks, or a blood clot in the lungs.

4. Unexplained changes in bowel habits
Bowel habit changes may signal a bacterial or viral infection, inflammatory bowel disease or, at the extreme, colon cancer. Seek medical attention for any of the following:
- Severe diarrhea lasting more than two days
- Mild diarrhea lasting a week
- Constipation that lasts for more than two weeks
- Unexplained urges to have a bowel movement
- Bloody diarrhea
- Black or tarry-colored stools

5. Mental status changes
Changes in behavior or thinking may be due to infection, head injury, stroke, low blood sugar or medications. Immediate medical care should be sought for any of the following:
- Sudden or gradual confused thinking
- Disorientation
- Sudden aggressive behavior
- Hallucinations

6. New or more-severe headaches -- especially for individuals over the age of 50. Seek immediate medical attention for:
- A sudden and severe headache, often called a thunderclap headache, because it comes on suddenly like a clap of thunder
- A headache accompanied by a fever, stiff neck, rash, mental confusion, seizure, vision changes, weakness, numbness, speaking difficulties, scalp tenderness or pain with chewing. Causes for headaches considered medical emergencies may include stroke, blood vessel inflammation, meningitis, brain tumor, aneurysm or bleeding on the brain after head trauma.

7. Short-term loss of vision, speaking, movement or control
With these symptoms, minutes count because they indicate the possibility of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). Seek immediate medical attention for any of the following:
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, leg on one side of the body
- Sudden dimness, blurring or loss of vision
- Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech
- A sudden or severe headache
- Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a fall

8. Flashes of light
The sudden sensation of flashing lights may signal the beginning of retinal detachment. Seek immediate medical care to save vision in the affected eye.

9. Feeling full after eating very little
Feeling full sooner than normal after eating a meal, or feeling persistent nausea or vomiting for a week, might indicate possible gastrointestinal disorders, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer or ovarian cancer.

10. Hot, red or swollen joints
These warning signs can indicate a joint infection, which requires emergency care to save the joint and prevent the spread of bacteria. Other causes could include gout or certain types of arthritis.

It's important for Texans, and everyone, to take care of themselves and to remember that part of your physical maintenance is being able to recognize certain symptoms, especially those that reoccur or don't go away. How you treat your body when you're young will certainly affect your health when you get older. Eventually, it will also affect your wallet as well.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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