Have you ever felt a pinch in your back and thought you had cancer? Most of the time, you probably experience muscle soreness from a bad mattress or the result of overdoing it on the tennis court. But other times, vague or generalized symptoms may be the first signs of a serious illness or condition that warrants further investigation. Here are five warning signs that your body is trying to tell you something is wrong.
Dizziness can result from standing up too quickly or from mild dehydration. But vertigo — the feeling of the room spinning — or lightheadedness can also be a sign of a problem with your brain, a problem with your gastrointestinal system, or a condition that affects your vision or inner ear.
“Many medical conditions can cause dizziness, or any simple condition like anxiety can also cause dizziness,” says Dr. Sharat Honnatti, a doctor in Bangalore, India. “Low hemoglobin, called anemia, also causes dizziness.”
A viral inner ear infection can cause temporary dizziness. “High blood pressure, low blood pressure, and very low pressure levels also cause dizziness, fatigue, and generalized weakness,” Honnatti adds.
Dizziness can also result from high or low blood sugar, diabetes, thyroid disease, or cardiovascular disease. Consult a physician if dizziness persists or is accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, can result from menopause, obesity, excessive exercise, anxiety or stress, and even eating foods that are too spicy, says the AARP.
But heavy sweating can also indicate thyroid problems, diabetes or heart problems.
“Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating” says Dr. Adam FriedmanProfessor and Acting Director of Dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“That’s four to five times what your body needs to control body temperature. … It can be hot, cold,” adds Friedman. “You could be stressed or anxious or just relax and watch TV, it doesn’t matter: you’ll sweat excessively. Because the nerves that send sweat signals are overloaded.”
He adds: “Now with secondary hyperhidrosis, this is usually associated with an underlying medical condition. These can be diabetes, hyperthyroidism, certain infections or even cancers, as well as certain medications like blood pressure medications or even antidepressants.”
Feeling cold may mean you need to turn up the thermostat. But a persistent feeling of chills could indicate a number of health conditions, including hypothyroidism, anemia, poor blood circulation or low body fat, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too few hormones to regulate your metabolism and body temperature. “It’s part of thermoregulation, the process by which your body adjusts your temperature to stay within a normal range,” says Dr. Janet Morgan, an internal medicine specialist at Beachwood Family Health and Surgery Center in Ohio. “For example, when you sleep, your body slows down to conserve energy and your body cools down.”
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can also be the culprit, says Dr. Eric Berg, Doctor of Chiropractic in Alexandria, Virginia. “The way to fix it is not to eat six meals a day or eat sugar when your blood sugar is low.” Other causes include low iron or certain vitamin deficiencies, he adds.
Unexplainable weight loss is usually a sign of something more serious than just skipping a meal or two.
It can be a symptom of stomach cancer, thyroid problem, Crohn’s disease, cardiovascular problem, Addison’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS , gastrointestinal problems, dental problems, depression or anxiety, side effects of prescription medications, celiac disease, diabetes, parasitic infection, drug addiction, undiagnosed eating disorders, swelling of the pancreas, alcohol abuse, swallowing disorders or dementia, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
To determine what it is, you and your doctor will check to see if you have any other symptoms that indicate a specific disease or condition.
Unusual moles or spots on your skin may or may not be a sign of skin cancer.
If the moles or freckles are round, symmetrical, or don’t change, you’re probably fine.
But if the spots are new, growing, asymmetrical or don’t have clear borders, they could be a sign of melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer, according to the skin cancer foundation.
“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In the United States”, says Dr. Keira L. Barr, dermatologist and wellness manager at the Resilient Health Institute. “There are more new cases of skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined. By ‘partying’ in your birthday suit each month and seeking out ‘uninvited guests’, you can to save your own life.”
Even non-cancerous moles that are irregular may be a sign that you have an increased risk of skin cancer, according to the foundation.
Know your skin, monitor your moles, and check regularly for any changes, the foundation advises.
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