Sunday, November 28, 2010

10 Symptoms Women Shouldn't Ignore

By Alice Daniel, Special to LifeScript

We all know the routine. We work hard. We play hard. We make lists of what has to be done right now.  What's not on the list?

Taking care of you. Too often we skip a doctor's visit or ignore symptoms because we're just too busy.
And that's a big mistake, maybe even a fatal one. Read on to find out the 10 symptoms you shouldn't
ignore...

 
You Get Top Priority
More often than not, it's the smart, educated woman who puts off going to the doctor,
even when going to the doctor should be a top priority, says Judy Kinzy, M.D., an internal medicine specialist in Knoxville , Tenn.  It's not unusual for a woman to finally come in long after a symptom has persisted.
"They read about it and try to figure it out on their own," Kinzy says.
"They don't think about possible consequences. Bottom line, they don't really want to have to deal with it."
But not dealing with a persistent symptom can be dangerous - and can even lead to a chronic or fatal disease.
Women should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

1. Acute Fatigue
Let's face it: Women are used to being tired. Who doesn't have a "to do" list that's book length.
Feed cat, take children to park, finish project at work, get mechanic to listen to weird sound in car, learn Photoshop, use up eggplant in fridge, check on Mom and Dad... and on and on and on.
Overload leads to fatigue, but when low energy and exhaustion seem out of proportion to your day-to-day activities and continue for more than two weeks, see a doctor.

Acute fatigue can be a difficult symptom to diagnose, Kinzy says, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it.
It can indicate hypothyroidism, which can be treated with a hormone, or anemia, which is treatable with iron or vitamin B12 shots. More seriously, it can also be a sign of depression, sleep apnea, heart disease or even lung cancer.

 2. Rectal Bleeding
Women who have had hemorrhoids while pregnant might dismiss rectal bleeding as a sign of a new hemorrhoid and not take it seriously, says Ruth Stewart, M.D., assistant professor at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University .

Rectal bleeding can indeed indicate a hemorrhoid, but it can also be a sign of colon or rectal cancer, which is curable if caught early, according to Stewart. If you experience rectal bleeding, you should see a doctor right away. And even if it's just a hemorrhoid, it still needs to be treated.

 3. Abdominal Bloating and Pain, Change in Bowel Habits
Like rectal bleeding, abdominal bloating and pain or a change in bowel habits can indicate something serious like colon cancer. These symptoms also can be a sign of ovarian cancer, inflammatory bowel syndrome or diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis occurs when you have small pouches that bulge outward in your colon (diverticulosis) that get infected. Diverticulitis can be treated with antibiotics, but sometimes requires surgery. If you experience abdominal bloating or a persistent change in bowel habits, such as constipation, make an appointment with your doctor.

 4. Pain or Discomfort in Chest
"Although heart disease is the number one killer of American women, most women still don't think about heart disease happening to them," Kinzy says. "They'll think they're having acid reflux or that they ate something funny, and  they'll just blow the feeling of discomfort off. They'll also argue against having a heart evaluation because they're so sure it's not their heart - and then it ends up being about their heart."
The signs of coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack, are typically much more subtle in women than in men.

"Angina isn't always obvious in women. It's not the classic 'elephant sitting on my chest' feeling," Stewart says. "Sometimes it's just discomfort or a 'not well' feeling."

Women might misdiagnose the discomfort as acid reflux or a "burpy" sensation. One of Stewart's former patients said the feeling was akin to having a balloon inside her chest. She assumed it was acid reflux, took a Maalox and went to work; a few hours later, she came into the hospital having a heart attack.
If you're having trouble exerting yourself or have some discomfort or pain in your chest or you're just not feeling right, see a doctor immediately.

 5. Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations are often related to stress, but if persistent, they can also be a sign of atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat. If you don't seek treatment for atrial fibrillation, you increase your risk of  having a stroke, especially if you have other risk factors for heart disease, which include an abdominal girth of more than 35 inches in women, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or if you smoke.

  6. Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is yet another symptom of heart disease. But it can also be a sign of other diseases, such as pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer or even a blood clot. They're all very serious, so if you're having continual or increased problems breathing, make an appointment to be evaluated.

 7. Pelvic Pain During Intercourse
It's not normal to have pelvic pain during sex, so pay attention if this symptom occurs. If pelvic pain happens during deep penetration, it could indicate pelvic inflammatory disease (PIV), endometriosis, an ovarian cyst or cervixitis, which is an infection of the cervix. Pelvic pain upon entry can mean a vaginal infection or a hormone deficiency.

If you do experience pelvic pain during intercourse, don't shrug it off. Go to the doctor. An infection that goes untreated can lead to infertility.

 8. Change in the Appearance of a Mole
Melanoma (skin cancer) is often linked to a change in moles, so check your moles regularly for any difference in their appearance. Follow the ABCD method recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology to help detect possible problems.

If the mole is A, asymmetrical; B, has uneven borders; C, has changed in color; or D, changed in diameter, see a dermatologist immediately. Any changes in your skin, such as a growth or a sore that won't heal, are also potential indicators of melanoma.

 9. Breast Lumps
Examine your breasts monthly to detect any new masses or lumps and have a yearly breast exam. It might sound funny, but you should be able to read your breasts like a map. That way, you'll be able to recognize an unusual mass or lump and have it evaluated right away. Potentially cancerous lumps usually feel like small stones or rocks in your breast, Kinzy says. Non-cancerous lumps are typically more tender and change in response to your menstrual cycle. But this is not always the case, so check with your doctor if any new lump appears.



10. Swelling in Legs or Persistent Pain in Joints
If you notice swelling in one or both legs, particularly after you've been traveling in a car or airplane, you should seek the advice of a doctor.

Swelling in one leg can mean a blood clot, while swelling in both legs can be a sign of kidney or liver disease.
Pain in joints that doesn't go away could mean something more serious than arthritis, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, which may require steroid treatment.
 
Women's Health: How Much Do You Know?
As a woman, your health concerns are as unique as your body.
How you take care of yourself has a huge impact on your future, affecting everything from your ability to have children to your risk of heart disease. There's no substitute for good health, and when it's gone, it's often gone for good. Don't let it pass you by.


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