If you have an annoying cough or a headache, it’s easy to brush it off like it’s no big deal. We experience these innocent little symptoms all the time — an ache here, a pain there, some other strange feeling… These symptoms tend to disappear quickly; going to the doctor every time you experience one would rack up quite the list of medical bills.
Even still, some people can’t help but freak out at every tiny potential sign. They’ll get a headache and scour the internet for signs they have cancer. They’ll find a freckle and assume it’s melanoma. That kind of worrying will drive you bonkers — and could really worsen your anxiety.
It’s helpful to know what to look for and when there’s actually a reason to be alarmed, so you don’t have to flip your lid every time you get a muscle cramp. Often, symptoms can be alleviated with something simple, like making sure you drink enough water or getting more of nutrients you’re missing from your diet. But there are some symptoms that, while they seem benign, could signal something serious.
After a few full nights of sleep, you shouldn’t be waking up feeling exhausted. If this happens to you, consider what other reasons for fatigue might be to blame. In rare cases, however, waking up feeling exhausted could mean something is interrupting your sleep. Sleep apnea occurs when you periodically stop breathing throughout your sleep cycle, causing your body to jolt awake. Restless leg syndrome can also interrupt your normal circadian rhythm.
If you keep finding dark splotches of black and blue on your skin without explanation, tell your doctor right away. This easy or excessive bruising can be an early indicator of leukemia. The low platelet count of their blood makes leukemia patients even more susceptible to bruising. If your bruises aren’t healing, that could signal something else serious, such as a hematoma that needs to be drained or a vitamin deficiency. People who aren’t eating enough sometimes experience this symptom because their blood isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs to heal internal wounds.
Don’t freak out every time you get a little lightheaded. Causes of dizziness that aren’t so serious could be hunger, a head rush, or intense forms of exercise. Dizziness could also signal dehydration — drink some water if you feel dizzy or experience these other warning signs. But if you regularly experience dizzy spells, it could be a sign of an iron deficiency, heart problems, or an inner ear problem.
Liver damage often doesn’t present any symptoms until it becomes severe. At that point, a person may experience jaundice, wherein their skin becomes tinted yellow, and have to be hospitalized. One early symptom, however, is itchy skin. Dry or itchy skin is usually a result of your body trying to tell you something. It can also indicate high blood pressure, which, if caught early, can be lowered by avoiding certain foods to avoid future heart trouble.
Don’t break a sweat over nothing — everybody perspires. But if you always seem to be drenched, regardless of the temperature or your levels of anxiety, it could be time to ask for a medical opinion. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can cause excessive perspiration, as can some other serious diseases.
Everyone forgets things now and then. Names are hard to remember! But if you’re usually pretty savvy with recalling everything on your to-do list but suddenly struggle to keep everything in mind, you might want to consider telling your doctor about it. Forgetting small things can be an early sign of a thyroid problem; people with hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, report feeling fuzzy and forgetful prior to treatment. Other symptoms, such as unusual variations in sleep and emotions, usually occur alongside this one.
If math just wasn’t your subject in school, don’t rush to tell your physician. But if you’re usually a whiz at counting tips and calculating totals, but recently run into roadblocks every time you try, you might reconsider. Struggling with simple math or forgetting numbers are early signs of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. To stave off brain degeneration that leads to these diseases, eat more of foods that could help preserve your cognition.
Hearing loss as you age is normal, especially if you listen to loud music in headphones or work in an environment with excessively loud noises. However, if the hearing loss is inexplicably concentrated in one ear, it could be a sign of a slow-growing tumor called an acoustic neuroma. As they grow, these tumors — while not cancerous — can cause balance and coordination problems.
Really wanting to chew ice isn’t just any old weird craving — though those often have logical explanations, as well. Craving the crunch of ice cubes is a symptom of an iron deficiency, called anemia. Make sure you are getting enough iron from your diet by eating lots of leafy greens and other iron-rich foods. You might also consider taking an iron supplement.
Unless you injured yourself, experiencing leg pain while you walk is nothing to stroll past unnoticed. Does the pain seem to emulate from the bone? That could be an early sign of osteoporosis, which many people with calcium deficiencies experience later in life. It could also signal bone cancer, which is less predictable.
Skin rashes are common and it’s crazy how many different types there are. Your rash could be anything from an allergy to a heat reaction. Pay attention to the size and shape of the rash — that can tip you off to whether it’s something to be concerned about or not. If the splotches don’t disappear or appear to be growing, talk to a medical professional. Certain rashes, such as those that appear circular and expand, are a sign of Lyme disease, for example.
If you’d stubbed your toe, you’d remember — that experience is painful, every time. Without an injury to explain it, a swollen toe is a reason to take a trip to your doctor. Your puffy toe could be an early symptom of gout, which is affiliated with other serious conditions such as high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Though it might be nice not to have to pluck them all the time, your eyebrows thinning out isn’t really a good sign. For some reason, your body isn’t growing hair as quickly as it usually would. This could be caused by an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Along with this symptom, patients often experience feelings of fatigue.
Not every mole is a cancerous one — but there are a few key characteristics to watch out for. The American Cancer Association advises watching closely for the ABCDE’s: you should be concerned if a mole is asymmetrical, has unclear borders, is a strange color, has an increasing diameter, or evolves over time. Your best line of defense against skin cancer is sunscreen — most people forget to apply sunscreen on these overlooked occasions.
You didn’t chew any gum, yet your breath still smells fruity. You didn’t eat any fruit, either! Don’t take this as a happy accident or an excuse not to brush your teeth. Diabetes patients often report fruity-smelling breath as an early symptom of their disease. Some experts say it’s a sign your body is trying to do something with excess sugar. Of course, whether you have diabetes or not, there are other signs you’re eating too much sugar.
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