10 Common Symptoms & What They Mean

October 15, 2019

Health is one of the most valuable things we have. When it starts to go, life can change fast. But what may be most frightening is when illnesses and other health problems seemingly appear out of nowhere. So knowing what symptoms to look for and noticing early warning signs can mean all the difference to your health and peace of mind.

Now googling every symptom you experience can be scary too! Sometimes it can even lead to more questions than answers. Questions like:

  • How do you know when your symptoms might be serious? 
  • Will they go away on their own?
  • Should you go see a doctor?

It can be hard to know when a symptom is something serious or not, and the research can be overwhelming and confusing depending where you look. So, we’ve done our best to take the guesswork out for you. Here are 10 common symptoms, what they could mean, and when you should worry!

10 Common Symptoms And What They Mean

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is a tricky one to diagnose, simply because it could have literally dozens, if not hundreds, of causes. Your abdomen contains all of your intestines and other vital organs, as well as thousands of nerve endings and blood vessels. Abdominal pain could simply mean that you have an upset stomach from something you’ve eaten, or you could be constipated. On the other hand, the symptoms could mean something more severe such as gastrointestinal disease or cancer.

Keep an eye on your bowel movement patterns, and if you notice prolonged constipation or diarrhea, there could potentially be a bigger issue going on and you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Also, if you experience intense pain in your lower right side accompanied by nausea, you should go to the emergency room immediately — these could be signs of appendicitis, which is urgent.

Chest Pain

At the first sign of chest pain, your initial thought might be that you’re having a heart attack. However, not all chest pains are created equal. Try taking a deep breath — if you feel a sharp pain in a specific spot in your chest, you’ve most likely pulled a muscle. If the chest pains cause a burning sensation and worsen when you eat or lie down, you could potentially have acid reflux, which is treatable with medication from your doctor or by natural methods. 

If your chest pains are persistent, constant, and severe for more than five minutes, accompanied by pain in your arms and shortness of breath, these are classic signs of a heart attack and you should seek medical attention immediately.

Fatigue

Most people would probably say that they feel tired at some point throughout the day. Of course, a lack of sleep could be the simple explanation for feeling a bit drowsy come mid-afternoon. However, this type of fatigue will be temporary, and once a regular sleep schedule is resumed, the fatigue should subside.

It may be time to see a doctor if your fatigue has come on without any identifiable cause, if your body temperature is higher than normal, and you’re experiencing any unexplained weight loss, or feeling depressed. These symptoms could potentially mean something more serious such as sleep apnea, diabetes, or heart disease.

Pelvic Pain

Women who experience infrequent pelvic pain are most likely experiencing menstruation symptoms. This pain, otherwise known as ‘cramps,’ can be remedied with over-the-counter medicines. If the pain becomes severe and extends in time, even after your period, it could mean that you have endometriosis, PCOS, or fibroids. Make an appointment with your doctor as there are many treatment options available to help ease these painful symptoms.

Blurred Vision

Blurry or ‘cloudy’ vision can be annoying, to say the least. Most people experience blurred vision because of a refractive error such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. A routine eye exam can determine if this is the case and the symptoms can be resolved with corrective lenses.

When it comes to your vision, the onset of your symptoms is important. If blurry vision occurs suddenly, it could be a sign of something more concerning. See your doctor right away if the onset is sudden, because it could mean a detached retina, glaucoma, cardiovascular disease, or other serious health issues.

Tingling in the Hands or Feet

You know that feeling of ‘pins and needles’ in your feet or hands if you’ve been sitting or sleeping in a weird position for too long? That tingly feeling is nothing to worry about and your limbs and appendages will feel normal again once your circulation is restored and you take pressure off the area.

However, if tingling in your hands or feet persists over a long period of time, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Chronic tingling in your limbs indicates nerve damage and could be the symptom of a vitamin deficiency, kidney failure, diabetes, or Epstein-Barr Virus infection.

Unexplained Rash

Rashes and skin conditions are notorious for popping up out of nowhere. Sometimes, it could mean that your skin is irritated from a new lotion or laundry detergent or it could mean that you’re having an allergic reaction to something. If the rash is not accompanied by any other symptoms and does not appear infected, over-the-counter treatments usually work well and the rash should heal on its own.

If the rash is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or aches, you’ll want to see medical attention immediately — it could be a sign of an internal issue or infection. Keep an eye out for sudden, unexpected growths on your skin as well; they could be early signs of skin cancer.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath should always be a cause for concern unless it was brought on by exercise or bursts of intense movement. If you start to experience a sudden onset of shortness of breath, it could be indicative of asthma, low blood pressure, or even a blood clot in the lung known as a pulmonary embolism. If your shortness of breath or general difficulty in breathing has been chronic and long-lasting, it could be a sign of COPD, lung disease, or fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema).

Back Pain

We all experience back pain at one point or another. Usually, it is brought on by exercise or unusual movements, but those types of muscle spasms or pulls will heal over the period of a couple of weeks. Avoid any heavy lifting during this healing time to ensure it doesn’t get any worse.

A sharp, deep pain in your back that lasts for weeks could be a symptom of the shingles virus — essentially, the “adult chickenpox”. This virus tends to be triggered by times of stress. Make an appointment with your doctor for medication if you suspect you have shingles. If, however, the pain is sudden, severe, and in your lower back, you might have kidney stones. Go to the hospital right away and they will confirm your diagnosis with an ultrasound.

Swelling of the Ankles or Legs

Most of the time, swelling of the ankles or legs is due to an injury like a twist or a sprain. These can be treated with over-the-counter meds, splints, and the healing power of time. But if you notice swelling without any type of causal injury, it might be a symptom of something more serious.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if swelling occurs that can’t be attributed to an injury– it could signify circulation issues or leg infection. Swelling can also be associated with heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure because all three of these conditions produce excess fluid in the body.

Bottom Line

These are the top ten symptoms to watch for as we age. Armed with this knowledge you can spend less time worrying and on WebMD, and more time living life!

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