From migraines to back pain, these are the health symptoms not to ignore

They could be more serious than you think

Words by Georgia Trodd

Turning a blind eye to common symptoms is something that people become incredibly good at. ‘I’m not ill. I’ll be fine. It’s just one of those days’, is something you often tell yourself to convince your body that you’re actually the epitome of health. We’re often advised not to take antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary, so it’s no surprise that even taking a couple of painkillers is seen as a sign of weakness. The problem falls when we ignore our illnesses so much, that it could really do us some damage.

common illness

The health symptoms not to ignore:

Diarrhoea

What it is:
You most likely already know what this is but, just in case you don’t, it’s where you frequently pass watery or loose poo. It’s a very common illness and is usually nothing to worry about; you may have just eaten something dodgy that didn’t agree with you. There are many different causes, according to NHS UK, but bowel infection (or gastroenteritis) is the usual trigger in both adults and children. Gastroenteritis can occur through bacteria, parasites, or when you contract a virus. Diarrhoea can also be the result of things such as anxiety, allergies, medication, or long-term conditions like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Why you shouldn’t ignore it:
It can become more serious when it lasts longer than a few days or you have it regularly. The NHS state that excessive loss of water in your poo can sometimes lead to dehydration, which can be serious if it’s not recognized and treated quickly. You should contact your GP and seek help if you have symptoms like; vomiting a lot, you’ve lost a lot of weight, it’s disturbing your sleep, you’ve recently taken antibiotics or been treated in hospital, you’re dehydrated, or your poo is dark or black (this may be a sign of bleeding inside your stomach). Blood in your poo could be a sign that you have bowel cancer. See a doctor if you’re concerned, they can send off samples of your stool for analysis.

Fatigue

What it is:
A good nights sleep is hard to come by these days especially when, on average, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night according to WebMD. If you’re not sleeping enough it’s hard to eat well and exercise. It’s the same in reverse, they’re all factors related in keeping you healthy. Fatigue is a common illness but if you don’t have an issue in any of these areas and you still can’t seem to pep up, it might be wise to have a check-up with your GP.

Why you shouldn’t ignore it:
Sometimes medical issues can cause fatigue, so it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor to try and rule things out. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes, most likely because your body uses lots of energy to deal with the changes in your blood sugar levels. Some other medical disorders that fatigue is a symptom of are anemia, thyroid problems, heart disease, sleep apnea, menopause and depression.

common illness

Migraine

What it is:
A migraine is another common illness, affecting around one in every five women – three times more often than men according to WebMD. They are usually more severe than headaches, creating a throbbing pain on one side of the head, where you might experience sensitivity to light and/or sound as well as nausea. The exact cause of why people get migraines is unknown, although they are thought to be the result of temporary changes in chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Some people find they can often be triggered through stress and/or tiredness. More often than not you can treat a migraine with painkillers, but they can last from anywhere between a few hours and a few days.

Why you shouldn’t ignore it:
When you experience frequent migraines you should seek medical advice from your GP as they might be able to give you better treatment. More serious symptoms such as paralysis, slurred speech, mental confusion, a rash and double vision might be signs of severe conditions such as a stroke or meningitis.

Constipation

What it is:
Constipation affects people of all ages; it’s a common illness that normally means that you can’t empty your bowel completely or at all. The symptoms can cause your poo to be harder and lumpier, larger or smaller, than normal. According to the NHS it’s estimated that around one in every seven adults, and up to one in every three children, in the UK has constipation at any one time. Marie Curie recommends having a warm drink in the morning but to avoid too many drinks containing caffeine. Things like not eating enough fruit and vegetables, for that all-important fibre, or not drinking enough fluids is usually the reason why you’re constipated.

Why you shouldn’t ignore it:
The severity of constipation can vary, and you’ll probably only experience it for a short time, but sometimes it can become quite a chronic condition if it continues over a long period. Long-term constipation can develop haemorrhoids (piles), incontinence or impaction. More seriously, ongoing constipation may sometimes increase your risk of developing colon cancer so it’s important not to ignore if it continues.

common symptoms

Lower back pain

What it is:
If you haven’t experienced back pain and don’t know what it is then you’re extremely lucky and must have the posture of a saint. Pain in the lower back (or lumbago as it’s known medically) is particularly common, although it can stem from anywhere along the spine. Typically it comes from sprains or strains in the muscles or joints between the bones in your spine. There are lots of ways to help relieve the symptoms of lower back pain, but sometimes it can last for long periods of time or keep coming back. The NHS recommend keeping as active as possible, doing activities such as swimming, yoga and Pilates to keep your muscles moving.

Why you shouldn’t ignore it:
Normally the pain will ease off within a few days or weeks but it’s always a good idea to see a specialist to double check, especially if you’re in a lot of pain. Back pain is something people tend to ignore, blaming stress, bad posture, or a bad nights sleep as the cause. The ‘ignorance is bliss’ mantra should not be applied, however, if you have chest pain, trouble staying balanced, shooting pains from your back to other parts of your body, or bowel and bladder issues. Pain radiating from your back to another part of your body can sometimes mean there is a trapped nerve or nerve irritation. It’s important to visit a specialist to solve the problem, ignoring it could cause permanent damage.

common symptoms

Dizziness

What it is:
It’s not usually a sign of anything serious when you experience feeling a bit light-headed and dizzy. According to the NHS, causes of this common illness is usually down to low blood sugar levels, dehydration or heat exhaustion, stress and/or anxiety.

Why you shouldn’t ignore it:
If you’re feeling worried and have other symptoms like fainting, see your GP. They’ll be able to determine exactly what you’re experiencing and what’s probably causing it.

common symptoms

Hot flashes

What it is:
Hot flashes (or flushes) are one of the most common symptoms of the menopause. Not all women experience them, but most do. Three out of every four menopausal women have hot flashes, the NHS found. Women have described them as a feeling of intense warmth that quickly creeps up on you, spreads across the entirety of your body, and seems to last forever. Others say they don’t really bother them at all. They can happen at any point of the day, without warning, but well-known triggers are stress, drinking alcohol or coffee and eating spicy foods.

Why you shouldn’t ignore it:
Generally they’re a harmless symptom of ‘that time’ in a woman’s life, but very occasionally they may be a sign of a blood cancer or carcinoid (type of tumour). See your doctor if you feel fatigued, weak, have diarrhoea or have lost weight, in addition to hot flashes.

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