Health warning signs that should not be ignored by women can be confusing and ambiguous at times. Women’s health issues are concerns and warning signs every female in the world faces at sometime in their lives. No woman is immune and it serves as a common bond that keeps females connected as a gender. It is not uncommon for smart, educated women to put off going to the doctor, even when it should be a top priority. Moreover, some women opt to see their physician only long after a symptom has persisted.
Whether the delay is due to a determination to figure out the ailment on their own or denial that something is amiss, ignoring or putting off addressing a mysterious health problem could become dangerous or even lead to a chronic or fatal disease. Here are some health warning signs that should not be ignored by women.
One health warning sign that could be indicative of many issues is acute fatigue. Women tend to wear many different hats and juggle various obligations. This prolonged juggling act often leads to overload and lethargy (low energy), which in turn leads to fatigue. However, when low energy and fatigue persists, a doctor should be consulted. While fatigue could be indicative of many health issues including hypothyroidism, which can be treated with a hormone, or anemia, which is usually treatable with iron or vitamin B12 shots, it should not be ignored. While more serious cases of fatigue could be a sign of depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep apnea, heart disease, or even lung cancer.
Another health warning sign that should not be ignored by women is rectal bleeding. Rectal bleeding could indicate something as benign as hemorrhoids, but it could also be a sign of colon or rectal cancer, which is curable especially when detected in the early stages. Hemorrhoids are increasingly common among pregnant women, women who have had children, and overweight or obese women due to strain and stress in that region. If a woman experiences rectal bleeding, consult a doctor right away. Even if it turns out to be simple hemorrhoids, the condition still needs to be properly examined and treated.
A troublesome health warning sign among women is abdominal bloating and distress, which can often result in changes in bowel habits. Similar to rectal bleeding, abdominal bloating and pain or a change in bowel habits could indicate something serious like colon or ovarian cancer. However, these are also common signs of health issues such as inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) or diverticulitis, which occurs when small pouches develop in the colon and become infected. It can be treated with antibiotics or could require surgery if the condition is severe. If a woman experiences abdominal distress or a persistent change in bowel habits, such as constipation or excessive gas, make an appointment with a doctor.
Serious warning signs that should never be ignored by women include chest pain or discomfort and heart palpitations. Heart disease remains the number one killer of American women, but most women still believe they are immune. The signs of coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack, are typically much more subtle in women than in men. It could be a general feeling of discomfort or unease, and women might misdiagnose the discomfort as acid reflux or a ‘burpy’ sensation. Some women have even likened the feeling to having a balloon inside their chest, and a few hours later, have found themselves at the hospital having a heart attack. Heart palpitations are often related to stress. However, if the palpitations become persistent, they could also be a sign of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke, especially if a woman has other heart disease risk factors, such as abdominal girth of more than 35 inches, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or is a smoker. If a woman experiences any of these symptoms, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Another potentially dangerous warning sign that should never be ignored by women is shortness of breath. This warning sign could be another symptom of heart disease. However, it can also be a sign of other serious health problems, such as pneumonia, emphysema, lung cancer, and a host of other respiratory ailments, or even a blood clot. The advent of such symptoms requires a doctor’s immediate attention and treatment should not be ignored or delayed.
A health warning sign that could often go unnoticed by women are changes to the appearance of a mole or freckles, which could be associated with possible melanoma. Melanoma (skin cancer) is often linked to a change in moles or freckles. The skin should be checked regularly for any difference in its appearance. Women should follow the ABCD method recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology to help detect possible problems. These protocols are as follows: If the mole is A, asymmetrical; B, has uneven borders; C, has changed in color; or D, changed in diameter, consult a dermatologist immediately. Moreover, any changes in the skin surface, such as a growth or a sore that does not heal, are also potential indicators of melanoma.
Breast lumps and masses are another warning sign that should not be ignored. Women should continue to do monthly self-exams to monitor for any changes in the breast and consult their doctor to determine how often they should be getting mammograms, depending on risk factors such as family history and personal health history. In general, cancerous lumps tend to feel like small stones or rocks in your breast, while benign lumps are typically more flaccid and change with your menstrual cycle. However, this is not always the case. If a new lump develops, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Other potentially dangerous warning signs that should never be ignored by women include swelling in the legs or persistent joint pain. Swelling (edema) in one or both legs, particularly after traveling in a car or airplane, could indicate a blood clot. If the edema is in both legs, it could be a sign of kidney or liver disease. While chronic or persistent pain in joints could indicate a condition more serious and complex than arthritis, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, which might require steroid treatment and regular monitoring by a physician or specialist.
There are some health warning signs that should not be ignored by women. Women’s health issues are concerns and warning signs that every female in the world faces at sometime in their lives. No woman is immune and every female should be aware of what warning signs to look out for and address if changes occur and concerns are prompted. A woman’s relationship with their doctor should be comforting and based in trust. If problems arise, a woman should feel secure and confident in that relationship and consult their physician with any concerns. By doing so, women could not only lead healthier, longer, and more fulfilled lives, but they might just save their own lives as well as many others.
Opinion By Leigh Haugh