The lit­tle red flags

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Your Health - By IAN JEROME LEONG

WHAT would be your ini­tial re­ac­tion dur­ing your pe­riod if you started to ex­pe­ri­ence pelvic pain, more in­tense cramps dur­ing bowel move­ments or some other ab­nor­mal re­ac­tions that were pre­vi­ously un­no­tice­able?

Would you con­sult your med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner, fam­ily and friends about the is­sue, or would you do some on­line re­search on these symp­toms? If it is only a mild level of pain, would you try to ignore the symp­toms and con­tinue with your day?

For many women, it is easy to push the is­sue on per­sonal health aside as there are other ur­gent mat­ters to at­tend to. Some of their im­me­di­ate re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­clude striv­ing for the best re­sults at work, fi­nanc­ing loans and mort­gages, com­plet­ing house­hold chores as well as spend­ing time with their fam­i­lies and rais­ing chil­dren.

Though some of these symp­toms may not be too se­ri­ous, it is vi­tal that women seek med­i­cal ad­vice when they no­tice any ab­nor­mal­i­ties with their health as there is a pos­si­bil­ity they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing signs of a more se­ri­ous health con­di­tion.

Dis­cov­ery by chance

Athena (not her real name) con­sid­ers her work life in data man­age­ment to be a stress­ful one, due to the ex­pec­ta­tions that come as part of her job, which in­clude per­sonal work achieve­ments and so­cial re­quire­ments. From month to month, she would ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms such as cramps, a loss of ap­petite and ter­ri­ble back pain dur­ing her men­stru­a­tion. How­ever, she did not give much thought to it. "I al­ways brushed it off as I thought it was nor­mal to ex­pe­ri­ence pain dur­ing men­stru­a­tion. My close fe­male rel­a­tives have the same symp­toms so it was not a sur­prise and my friends would give me al­ter­na­tive medicine ad­vice. "I never pur­posely went to a doc­tor be­fore to seek med­i­cal help for my men­stru­a­tion prob­lem but I ac­ci­den­tally found out about my en­dometrio­sis con­di­tion from an MRI (mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing) test I did dur­ing my back­bone check-up," says Athena. Ac­cord­ing to the 23-year-old, the con­di­tion did not come as a to­tal shock as her sis­ter and cousins also had it. How­ever, Athena also learnt that she has poly­cys­tic ovary syn­drome (PCOS), a con­di­tion caused by hor­monal im­bal­ance that in­duces small cysts to form on the ovaries. 9 had surgery to get the cysts re­moved and I was on in­duced menopause for a year af­ter my surgery?' Since then, the in­ten­sity of her cramps has de­creased grad­u­ally.

Hav­ing been around other women who ex­pe­ri­ence equal or worse de­grees of men­strual pain, Pe­tu­nia (not her real name) has also dis­missed her se­vere men­strual cramps and blamed it on her genes.

As a woman in her early twen­ties, she was con­fused as to what her body was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and the pain is of­ten un­bear­able, once re­quir­ing her to be hos­pi­talised for pain man­age­ment.

“There was an ob­ser­va­tion at the hos­pi­tal about the po­si­tion of my womb, which ap­par­ently is not nor­mal in women and I nat­u­rally got wor­ried.

“The con­di­tion is hered­i­tary and there is not much that can be done about it. It has been about two years since I recog­nised the ab­nor­mal­ity but it is not some­thing that can be med­i­cally treated,” says Pe­tu­nia who works as an in­vest­ment con­sul­tant.

As her con­di­tion is not treat­able, Pe­tu­nia un­der­stands why women women may give up seek­ing help or do not even seek med­i­cal help in the first place.

How­ever, she be­lieves one should not down­play their symp­toms and be med­i­cally checked.

“Are you try­ing to fool your­self into be­liev­ing that your symp­toms are not ac­tu­ally a prob­lem? Let’s not cre­ate more is­sues for our­selves.”

Quick to act

If my pain and dis­com­fort re­cedes af­ter a cou­ple of days, how could it be dan­ger­ous to my ealt ?

Such ques­tions are not un­com­mon among many women and this is be­cause they are still largely able to per­form daily tasks, al­beit with a lit­tle in­con­ve­nience and pain.

The greater dan­ger of not seek­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion and leav­ing these symp­toms un­treated, how­ever, is that an in­di­vid­ual’s health may de­te­ri­o­rate much fur­ther in the long run, caus­ing un­nec­es­sary agony and a much heftier hos­pi­tal bill.

Athena’s case is just one ex­am­ple of a per­sist­ing health con­di­tion that can go un­no­ticed. If she had not gone through with that MRI scan, she would not have dis­cov­ered that she has PCOS and there is no telling if she would pick up other health is­sues such as ges­ta­tional di­a­betes, in­creased blood pres­sure or uter­ine can­cer – con­di­tions that have been linked with PCOS.

At the other end of the spec­trum, though Pe­tu­nia’s con­di­tion is un­treat­able, it helps to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of her body and is a fact that she has come to ac­cept.

Have you been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing un­usual body re­ac­tions for pro­longed pe­ri­ods or were not present in pre­vi­ous months? If so, it is about time you pay a visit to the doc­tor to be cer­tain there is noth­ing to worry about.

The con­di­tions listed on the next few pages are not meant to scare or cause para­noia, but rather to give you a rea­son to pause for a mo­ment, be con­scious about your phys­i­cal re­ac­tions and not brush off or down­play these symp­toms as some­thing nor­mal.

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