Monday Medical: Subtle signs of health issues
November 19, 2018
Editor's note: This is the second story in a two-part series about symptoms you shouldn't ignore. Part 1 covered symptoms that require immediate attention; Part 2 covers issues that may sometimes seem less urgent, but still need care.
There are classics symptoms that require fast medical treatment — intense pain in the chest or abdomen, or the confusion and loss of mobility associated with stroke.
"But, there are other things that are also important that might not readily come to mind," said Dr. Nathan Anderson, an emergency medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Below, Anderson outlines a few of these less talked-about symptoms and highlights the importance of prompt medical attention.
Though fever often resolves on its own, it can also be the first sign of influenza. Especially for the very young and the very old, the flu should not be taken lightly.
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"Eighty thousand Americans died of the flu last year," Anderson said. "It's a significant mortality issue."
In addition to fever, the flu typically comes with other symptoms: fatigue, sore throat and body aches. "It's the fever plus those additional factors that really drive the need for intervention," Anderson said.
Seek medical attention if you experience bleeding that's not related to an injury. Coughing up blood or seeing blood in your urine or bowel movement is a sign that something is wrong.
"There's something behind that situation that needs to be investigated," Anderson said. "It could be as simple as a bladder infection, or it could be more serious, like a tumor."
Take rectal bleeding, for example: the No. 1 cause is hemorrhoids, but another common cause is colon cancer, which can be treated if it's caught early.
Hit your head in a ski crash or a fall? You should probably be seen by a doctor.
"If your head just doesn't feel right — you're foggy, you're having trouble sleeping, noises and bright lights bother you — you could have a concussion," Anderson said. "In our active community, from youth through older adults, concussion and head injury are real common problems."
Treating a concussion as soon as possible makes a big difference in recovery. "The earlier it's recognized and the earlier that treatment is started, the better your outcome will be," Anderson said.
If you find that any substance — whether alcohol, tobacco or drugs — is taking over your life, seek help.
"If you feel it's in control of you, that it dominates your thoughts and your behaviors, then perhaps it's time to get help," Anderson said. "A primary care provider can help you get started on the right path for every facet of that dependency. But in a crisis situation, the emergency department is there for you."
Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness should be addressed as quickly as possible. A doctor can devise a treatment plan and help connect patients with further resources.
"There's hardly a day that goes by in the emergency department when we don't meet somebody who's somewhere on that spectrum," Anderson said. "When you're suffering, it might seem you're beyond treatment. But you're not. With intervention, we can avert disaster."
With any of these health issues, a primary care provider will often be your first stop for care. However, if symptoms come on quickly or in the middle of the night, or if a situation becomes serious, the emergency department is always available.
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.