The Most Serious Medical Symptoms Guys Ignore- & What They Could Mean
10/9/2012 5:41:00 AM
DOCTOR, DOCTOR GIVE ME THE NEWS
Guys hate to go to the doctor and frequently put off going. Here are 10 Symptoms He Shouldn't Ignore Experts agree that not every symptom warrants a trip to the doctor, but some seemingly minor signs shouldn't be toyed with (in men or women). We asked physicians to tell us the most serious symptoms that often go ignored -- and why they shouldn't be.
1. Feeling Tongue-Tied
He's thinking: I'm having a senior moment.
But it could be: A stroke. When a clot, injury, narrow blood vessel or other problem restricts blood flow to the brain, the result can be a TIA -- a transient ischemic attack, which impairs brain function and can make speech difficult.
2. Shortness of Breath
He's thinking: I'm really out of shape.
But it could be: An impending heart attack. Shortness of breath with exertion such as walking up a flight of stairs could be a sign that the heart muscle isn't getting enough oxygen -- a hallmark of coronary heart disease, which men age 55 and over are at an increased risk for.
3. Persistent Pain On One side of the Abdomen
He's thinking: I probably pulled a muscle.
But it could be: A kidney stone or tumor. One-sided pain that goes away probably is a side stitch or pulled muscle and nothing to worry about. "But if a dull ache is persistent, it should be evaluated by a physician," says Dr. Kaplan. "It could be many things, but a tumor is one of the first possibilities we consider." An ache from a tumor won't likely move around, and may get better if he takes an over-the-counter pain reliever -- but will keep coming back. "Any abdominal pain that doesn't resolve within three days deserves to be checked out."
4. Toilet-Time Blood
He's thinking: Must be something I ate.
But it could be: A kidney stone or bladder cancer if blood is in urine; colon cancer if blood is in stools. Bright red spots on tissue after wiping are likely from hemorrhoids. But blood in stools that have become narrower and thinner than usual (like the width of a pencil) could be a sign of cancer. Black, tarry stools might also indicate stomach bleeding from an ulcer. His doctor will likely examine the GI tract via a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy to nail down the problem.
5. Trouble Down Below
He's thinking: There's a pill for this.
But it could be: An early warning of cardiovascular disease. "The latest studies find that men in their 40s and 50s with erectile dysfunction may be two to five years away from a cardiovascular event like a heart attack," Dr. Miner says. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic found that men who had ED in their 40s were 50 times more likely to have heart trouble down the road than men who didn't.
6. Daytime Fatigue
He's thinking: I should go to sleep earlier.
But it could be: Obstructive sleep apnea. Spending more time in bed won't help if fatigue is due to this condition, in which the airway narrows or is blocked during sleep, cutting off breathing and disrupting slumber five to 30 times an hour. "Everyone has a night here and there when he doesn't sleep well. But if the fatigue doesn't go away even when he can catch up on rest, sleep apnea could be putting him at risk for health problems such as heart attack, arrhythmias, stroke or even heart failure," Dr. Shindel says.
7. Constant Grumpiness
He's thinking: I'm just under a lot of stress at work.
But it could be: Depression. Feeling cranky and low because of work hassles or difficult times is normal, but it should dissipate within a few days. With clinical depression, downbeat irritability lasts weeks at a time. "It's different from run-of-the-mill blues and time for him to talk to his doctor if you're saying to him, 'You haven't been acting like the person I think you really are for weeks' or he's lost interest in activities he used to enjoy or isn't performing at work," Dr. Shindel says.
8. Frequent Urination
He's thinking: I'm drinking too much coffee.
But it could be: Type 2 diabetes or an enlarged prostate. It might be the coffee -- when he's actually drinking it. But if he often gets up to go twice or more during the night, his body could be trying to get rid of excess blood sugar that's built up because it can't get into cells -- the problem that defines diabetes. He should first try adjusting what or when he drinks at night to see if that leads to fewer wee-hour trips to the bathroom. "If he still urinates more than he did a month ago, he should get his blood sugar checked, especially if he also has increased thirst, another red flag for diabetes," Dr. Miner says. Diabetes can usually be controlled with changes in diet and exercise, often combined with medication.
9. Yellowish Skin
He's thinking: What yellow skin?
But it could be: Liver trouble. Yellow skin, or jaundice, suggests the liver isn't functioning right. Possible causes in adults include liver disease, gallstones, pancreatic cancer or a viral hepatitis infection, which causes swelling of the liver.
10. A New Spot -- Mole, Freckle, Red Patch -- On the Skin
He's thinking: It'll go away.
But it could be: Skin cancer or seborrheic keratoses -- warty, waxy benign lesions that become more common in middle age. Any time a new skin growth appears or an existing one changes in size, color or shape, he should see a doctor. Be especially concerned if a spot or mole gets darker, bleeds, itches or feels irritated -- all of which are possible signs of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.