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Keep an Eye on These Symptoms

If you're constantly worried that every headache or spot on your skin means you've been stricken with a dreaded disease, get your facts straight so you can stop panicking unnecessarily. On the other hand, it’s important to be aware of a number of signs that can alert you to a serious health problem.

Want to know what you should really be worrying about? Check out these symptoms that shouldn't be ignored.

Chest pain

This is really a no-brainer—chest pain should always get your attention. Chest pain, known by the medical term angina, is a common symptom of coronary heart disease. Chest pain that is accompanied by any of these symptoms is more likely to be caused by a heart attack:

  • Vomiting, nausea, lightheadedness or dizziness

  • Pain in the jaw, neck or shoulder

  • Pain that feels like squeezing or heavy pressure on the left side of the chest

  • Sweating

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Difficulty breathing

Chest pain that isn't caused by a heart attack could also be unstable angina, which can be an indicator of a future heart attack.

Difficulty speaking

Sudden changes in speech, including difficulty recalling words and forming words correctly, can indicate a serious health concern. Difficulty speaking may be caused by:

  • Stroke

  • Brain tumor

  • Damage to the brain

  • Infection in the brain

  • Dementia

Difficulty speaking caused by stroke typically causes other symptoms, including: 

  • Numbness and difficulty controlling muscles (such as being unable to lift both arms or to walk)

  • Acting confused or being unable to understand others

  • Inability to respond to questions or commands

  • Changes in vision

  • Clumsiness, poor balance and lack of coordination

  • A severe headache

When caused by stroke, difficulty speaking and other symptoms strike suddenly and rapidly.

Chronic thirst

Constantly feeling thirsty can indicate several health problems, particularly diabetes and dehydration. Dehydration is a major concern and can quickly become life-threatening. It can happen when the body loses too many fluids from vomiting, diarrhea or heavy sweating, or from simply not drinking enough liquids.

Chronic thirst is a common symptom of type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin. Other symptoms of type 1 diabetes that accompany chronic and excessive thirst include: 

  • Extreme increase in appetite

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Frequent urination

  • Feeling extremely fatigued

Bloody urine

Blood in the urine, or hematuria, is often not a sign of a dangerous health problem. But bloody urine can signal serious conditions such as a tumor in the urinary tract, sickle cell anemia and other blood diseases, or kidney disease. These diseases require treatment to prevent further complications, so identifying the underlying cause is important.

An analysis of a urine sample, blood tests and imaging tests can usually lead to a diagnosis.

Skin lesions

Your skin can change over time, but not all changes are cause for concern. Pimples or blemishes, scars, wrinkles and other changes aren’t usually significant medical issues. But if you spot a skin lesion or unusual-looking mole, head to a dermatologist to get it checked out—it could be a sign of skin cancer.

Other skin cancer signs include: 

  • An asymmetrical mole

  • Irregular borders around a mole

  • Irregular color across a mole

  • An increase in the size of a mole

  • A mole that changes over time

  • Lumps on the skin that may be firm, red, waxy, crusty or sore

  • Flat red lesions on the skin that itch, scab or appear scaly

Severe headaches

Headaches are a common occurrence and usually nothing to worry about. But if a headache strikes severely and suddenly, get it checked out. An unusual headache can be a symptom of a stroke or an infection of the brain. A severe headache that strikes after a head injury is also cause for concern.

Other serious symptoms that could accompany a severe headache and that merit attention are: 

  • Stiffness of the neck

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty speaking

  • Pain in the ears or eyes

A severe headache accompanied by any of these symptoms should be immediately checked out by a doctor.

Every sniffle shouldn't send you rushing to the emergency room. But if you spot any of these suspicious warning signs, it's a wise idea to get an evaluation from a medical professional.