Why these everyday subtle symptoms shouldn’t be taken lightly
13 March 2019
I thought it was just random sweats,” says 29-year-old Melissa*. “If I had gone to a doctor earlier than four years with my symptoms, I may have had a better chance to conceive today via IVF.”
The importance of knowing your body
Hanging on to hope for a baby: Melissa
Melissa has premature ovarian failure (POF), an uncommon condition where ovaries cease to function normally before the age of 40. With her condition, Melissa’s chances of conceiving even via IVF is one percent according to her doctor.
Melissa left seeing a doctor till later because she was trying to conceive and attributed her symptoms to pregnancy. “I had hot flushes, really bad premenstrual syndrome, more than one period in a month, trouble sleeping, dramatic mood swings, painful intercourse and extreme nausea,” she says.
“Yet I thought nothing of these till it was finally diagnosed that I had POF. Being so young, the diagnosis took longer than usual too as the doctors didn’t believe it could happen at my age.”
While there is no cure for Melissa’s condition, medication can ease the discomfort. However, as she is trying to conceive with IVF, the medication is not advisable.
Melissa is not the only one who doesn’t think twice about symptoms like mood swings and disturbed sleep patterns. It’s common to brush them under the carpet.
Listen to your body
It’s not uncommon for people to ignore symptoms that could be a sign of underlying health issues. Or treat symptoms with medication rather than investigating the cause. It’s important to listen to your body and visit your healthcare practitioner to get any concerning symptoms checked out. Regular check-ups are also a good way to avoid any undue health anxiety.
Let’s look at some symptoms that should not be ignored.
1. Constant confusion and sudden personality change
It’s quite subjective, but if a person is unnaturally moody, aggressive or euphoric, it could be considered a change in personality. When this becomes persistent, you should see a doctor as it may be a case of mental health issues or other medical problems. Seek urgent medical attention if you have sudden:
Poor thinking skills
Difficulty focusing or shifting attention
2. High fever
A fever in itself is not an illness but it could be a symptom of an underlying infection. If you’re persistently getting a high fever, either continuously or erratically, see a doctor. If the fever is higher than 39.4 C for more than three days, seek medical attention.
3. Losing weight without making an effort
It may sound like a dream to some who struggle with weight loss. However, if you lose more than 5% of your body weight in less than six months - without trying to lose weight - you should get a medical evaluation. It could be an indication of many things such as an overactive thyroid, diabetes, cancer or disorders that prevent absorption of nutrients in your body.
4. Shortness of breath
Factors such as obesity, massive temperature variations and strenuous exercise can cause shortness of breath.
Outside of these, if you’re experiencing shortness of breath, it could be an indicator of issues with your heart or lungs such as asthma, pneumonia or low blood pressure. If the breathlessness is sudden it could even be indicative of something more serious like heart attack or pulmonary embolism - seek urgent medical attention if this happens.
5. The feeling of always being too ‘full’
Do you feel full after eating very little? If accompanied by nausea, vomiting and bloating it’s possible you could be suffering from GERD - gastroesophageal reflux disease or peptic ulcers. Both are curable, but early medical intervention can help ease symptoms and lead to quicker recovery.
Gut and bowel movement in fact are good indicators of your health. Unexplained changes to bowel movements - too much, too few - or change in your poop could be saying more about your health than you know. Unexplained urges for a bowel movement, black or tarry coloured stools, or persistent diarrhoea or constipation could be due to an infection. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or colon cancer could also be causing these symptoms. You should consult your doctor if you have concerns.
6. Flashes of light
Often flashes of light or bright spots are put down to a migraine. Occasional flashes of light are a normal symptom of migraines, although it pays to discuss with your ophthalmologist or doctor. If they start recurring, it could be serious, such as retinal detachment. Make an urgent visit to your medical specialist to prevent vision loss.
It’s important to listen to your body and be proactive by speaking with your GP for professional advice about any concerns you have with changes to your body.
* Name changed to protect identity. Information correct as at March 2019. Sources - American Academy of Opthamology - August 2018, Bowel Cancer New Zealand - August 2018, Health Line - August 2018, Mayo Clinic - August 2018, WebMD - August 2018