That nig­gling pain might seem in­no­cent enough, but it could be the tip of a far more se­ri­ous ill­ness ice­berg. If you ex­pe­ri­ence any of th­ese five signs, go to your doc­tor right away

Friday - - Society -

We all know when our health is good. We have great en­ergy, we feel good and our body works well for us, whether we ask it to do a long-dis­tance walk, play with tod­dlers all day or put in long hours at the of­fice.

But our body has its own warn­ing sys­tem that works like the red-light warn­ings we get on our car dash­boards. Usu­ally, as with our cars, the prob­lem isn’t se­ri­ous and can be eas­ily reme­died, but oc­ca­sion­ally the symp­tom we suf­fer – be it a headache or an un­usual pain in our legs – can be a sign that some­thing is awry. Some­times, catch­ing a se­ri­ous ill­ness early can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death, and in some cases, sec­onds and min­utes mat­ter.

“The sooner you go to a doc­tor with one of th­ese symp­toms, the more chance your GP has of catch­ing and treat­ing the disease be­fore it gets any more se­ri­ous,” says Dr Atul Aund­hekar, chief med­i­cal di­rec­tor of iCare clin­ics in Dubai.

“Th­ese symp­toms can be part of what we call the ‘ice­berg phe­nom­e­non’, be­cause they present as mi­nor sur­face symp­toms, but un­der­ly­ing them is a much more se­ri­ous is­sue, which can be life-threat­en­ing.”

Ex­perts agree there are five top symp­toms for which pa­tients should seek med­i­cal help as soon as pos­si­ble. While they might not be se­ri­ous, the threat they pose is too great for them to be ig­nored.

Spread­ing chest pain

What it could be:

“If you feel as if you’re be­ing squeezed very tightly, or the pain you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing is trav­el­ling up to­wards your shoul­der or jaw, it may be that a blocked blood ves­sel is im­ped­ing the flow of oxy­gen to your heart,” says Dr Aund­hekar. “Chest pain, a heav­i­ness in the chest, pal­pi­ta­tions or tight­ness in the chest could all be the sign of heart fail­ure or a heart at­tack.”

Coronary heart disease oc­curs when the heart’s blood sup­ply is in­ter­rupted by choles­terol-con­tain­ing de­posits, known as plaque, which build up in the ar­ter­ies. A heart at­tack hap­pens when that blood sup­ply is com­pletely blocked. Other symp­toms in­clude sweat­ing and a feel­ing of im­pend­ing doom.

Dr Dav­ina Deniszczyc, well-be­ing med­i­cal di­rec­tor for Nuffield Health in the UK, says, “In this case, get­ting med­i­cal at­ten­tion quickly is the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death and sec­onds count. If you can get seen by a para­medic im­me­di­ately, they can dis­solve a clot be­fore any dam­age has oc­curred.”

What it might be:

Milder di­ag­noses in­clude stom­ach prob­lems such as indi­ges­tion or mus­cu­lar prob­lems, es­pe­cially if you have been do­ing some­thing out of the or­di­nary the day be­fore.

“Some­one who has been do­ing a lot of push-ups or a new phys­i­cal ex­er­cise or even some heavy lift­ing may find they have pains in their chest,” says Dr Aund­hekar.

Tin­gling foot pain

What it could be:

Numb­ness and tin­gling in the feet could be a sign of di­a­betic neu­ropa­thy, says Dr Aund­hekar.

This con­di­tion can oc­cur in peo­ple with type 1 or type 2 di­a­betes. A tin­gling like pins and nee­dles hap­pens when the nerves have been dam­aged by high blood-su­gar lev­els as­so­ci­ated with di­a­betes.

Over time di­a­betic neu­ropa­thy can cause a di­a­betic foot ul­cer. If the ul­cer be­comes in­fected, there is a risk that the foot tis­sue will be­gin to die.

“This gets very se­ri­ous if the foot gets gan­grene be­cause then you need to am­pu­tate,” says Dr Aund­hekar.

Dr Deniszczyc adds, “Some peo­ple de­scribe this feel­ing of numb­ness as walk­ing on cot­ton wool be­cause they have a lack of sen­sa­tion and they can’t feel when they are in­jur­ing their feet… Di­a­betes can be di­ag­nosed with a sim­ple fin­ger-prick blood test,

which takes a few min­utes. The ear­lier it can be di­ag­nosed and man­aged the bet­ter, to pre­vent per­ma­nent dam­age.”

What it might be:

Foot tin­gling might be a sign that you’re de­fi­cient in vitamin B12, which can be eas­ily rec­ti­fied if you see your doc­tor. Other symp­toms of this de­fi­ciency are feel­ing tired and look­ing pale, in­creased breath­less­ness, pal­pi­ta­tions, a yel­low­ing of the whites of your eyes ( jaun­dice), headaches, poor con­cen­tra­tion and a sore mouth and tongue.

Dr Deniszczyc says, “Numb­ness and tin­gling can also be down to life­style. If you’ve been sit­ting in a funny po­si­tion, you may have been starv­ing your mus­cles of oxy­gen and they start re­leas­ing tox­ins. The an­swer is to get up and move around!”

Se­vere headache

What it could be:

Most peo­ple get a headache from time to time, but a se­vere headache, worse than any you’ve ever known, must be checked out im­me­di­ately.

“A headache could be an ini­tial symp­tom of a tran­sient is­chaemic at­tack (a mini stroke) or a cere­brovas­cu­lar ac­ci­dent (a stroke),” says Dr Aund­hekar.

“If a pa­tient presents with a headache and tin­ni­tus (ring­ing in the ears), there is a chance that they are suf­fer­ing a bleed be­cause of a rup­ture of an artery in the brain, known as an aneurysm. This is po­ten­tially lifethreat­en­ing.”

Dr Deniszczyc says many brain tu­mours also cause dull, throb­bing headaches, along with nau­sea and vom­it­ing, which are of­ten worse first thing in the morn­ing.

“Pa­tients with brain tu­mours of­ten feel the pres­sure of the mass when they bend down or stoop,” she ex­plains. “They usu­ally re­alise the headache came on months ago and it never re­ally went away.”

What it might be:

“You may have a mi­graine or a headache due to si­nusi­tis. It may be some­thing as sim­ple as you are strain­ing your eyes and you need read­ing glasses or you may have in­haled some chem­i­cals you’re al­ler­gic to,” says Dr Aund­hekar. Also, den­tal disease and up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions can lead to headaches.

Dr Deniszczyc be­lieves this type of headache may be caused by ten­sion. “A ten­sion headache feels like a tight band around the head and it of­ten comes on later in the day. It would be worth look­ing at your pos­ture and head po­si­tion if you get a lot of ten­sion headaches. Oth­er­wise, painkillers and re­lax­ing will help to ease them.”

Lower back pain

What it could be:

An aching back that feels numb or a pain that starts in the but­tocks and goes down the legs may be a sign of a PIVD, a pro­lapsed in­ter­ver­te­bral disc.

“This can cause in­tense pain be­cause of the com­pres­sion of the nerve that passes through the spinal canal,” ex­plains Dr Aund­hekar. “If left un­treated the gait will col­lapse and you will be un­able to stand. A pro­lapsed disc can make peo­ple bedrid­den.”

PIVD is usu­ally ac­com­pa­nied by weight loss, fever and bloat­ing and is worse at night.

Dr Deniszczyc says this in­jury can of­ten be traced back to trauma, such as a sud­den jolt in a car crash, or an ac­ci­dent play­ing foot­ball.

“There is al­ways a dan­ger if the spinal cord is af­fected, and the sooner you get checked out, the bet­ter. This could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing able to walk and be­ing im­mo­bile.”

What it might be:

Youmay have pulled a mus­cle or have kid­ney stones.

Women may be suf­fer­ing from a pelvic in­flam­ma­tory disease, which can be treated quickly and eas­ily. Dr Deniszczyc says a huge per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion will have this type of pain from time to time.

“It comes on when you have done too much, like when you’ve moved house or you’ve started a new fit­ness regime af­ter months of do­ing noth­ing ac­tive,” she says.

“A lot of peo­ple get this pain with weight gain – the ex­tra pounds put pres­sure on the lower back, which is why many preg­nant women get it too.

“You know when this pain is mus­cu­loskele­tal be­cause you feel com­pletely well ev­ery­where else. Mas­sage will help ease it, as will a hot wa­ter bot­tle or cold treat­ments like an ice pack.”

Leg pain with red­ness and­warmth

What it could be:

If you ex­pe­ri­ence mus­cle cramps with warmth, red­ness and swelling, it could be a DVT (deep vein throm­bo­sis), a blood clot that forms in the veins in your legs. “A DVT is al­ways a worry for peo­ple on long-haul flights or who have spent a long time in hos­pi­tal im­mo­bile,” ex­plains Dr Deniszczyc. “Of­ten peo­ple with a DVT com­plain of a pain in their calf, which feels hot to the touch… Stand­ing on tip­toes will be re­ally painful for your calf if you have a blood clot and if you look at both your legs there will be a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in size – the leg with the clot will be swollen. Women who take the con­tra­cep­tive pill are more sus­cep­ti­ble to this kind of clot.

“The dan­ger comes when the clot dis­lodges. The next or­gan for it to go to is the lungs, and if this hap­pens, it could be fatal. This is worth get­ting checked out im­me­di­ately, es­pe­cially if you have no idea why it’s hap­pened.”

What it might be:

It could be a skin in­fec­tion or bruises, but Dr Deniszczyc be­lieves it’s even more likely to be an in­sect bite. “The area will be itchy and red and if a mos­quito has bit­ten you, it can get very sore. It will also be shiny over the red area. An an­ti­his­tamine will sort this out. If the bite has be­come in­fected, you may also need an an­ti­sep­tic cream.”

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