Life is often hectic and with the winter weather now on its way, the rise of the dreaded cold and flu viruses are likely to start taking hold.
In fact, earlier this year, Bath and Somerset were reported to be hotspots for the ‘Aussie Flu’, as residents were advised to closely monitor their symptoms and seek medical advice at their local hospital if they felt unwell.
We all know what it feels like to be under the weather, and for many of us it is just a case of grinning and bearing it until the symptoms disappear, but if they don’t ease after a few days, or continue to get worse, they could be the sign of something a little more serious.
Here are a few common symptoms to keep an eye on over the coming months – remember to always book an appointment with your doctor if you are concerned or worried about your health.
Rapid or Unexpected Weight Loss
If you asked people to comment on their current weight, the vast majority would probably indicate that they would like to lose a couple of pounds and proceed to do so in a healthy way through exercise and sensible eating.
However, if you find yourself suddenly shedding the pounds without making any changes to your eating habits or physical activity, it could be a sign of an underlying issue. Typically the benchmark for seeking advice is around 5% loss of body mass over a six to twelve month period, but if you experience changes of any kind that you are concerned about then it’s worth getting a medical opinion as soon as possible, just to rule out anything more serious.
Don’t panic though, as weight loss is commonly linked to a wide range of medical and physical conditions, many of which are fairly easy to treat or manage once diagnosed.
Everyone should experience thirst on a daily basis and this is a completely normal physical reaction to ensure we remain hydrated throughout the day. In fact, it can often be challenging for people to meet their minimum requirement of drinking 1.2 litres per day!
In addition, certain activities, foods and temperatures can increase your desire to consume fluids to replenish your body, all of which are completely normal. However, if you find that no matter how much you drink you can’t seem to quench your thirst, it could be worth seeking some medical advice from your doctor.
Frequent causes of persistent thirst can include low blood pressure, anemia or diabetes, particularly if you also experience additional symptoms such as blurred vision, feelings of nausea, dizziness or a lack of energy and fatigue.
Headaches are extremely common as they can be caused by so many different factors, from eye strain to hormone changes and from dehydration through to food intolerances and even pinched nerves.
Mild headaches can usually be treated effectively with over the counter medicines and a little rest, but if they occur after you have hit your head, or you experience fever, nausea or vomiting alongside it, then you should visit your local NHS hospital and get medical advice.
In addition, if the symptoms of your headaches change in severity or frequency, or if you start to experience other sensations such as tingling or dizziness, it is worth booking an appointment to discuss with your doctor. In many cases the problem can be easily resolved, so don’t continue to suffer in silence.
Tight Chest and Breathlessness
A tight chest and shortness of breath is very common, particularly when moving from a hot environment to the colder weather outdoors. It can also be triggered by physical exertion, pregnancy, asthma, allergies and stress or anxiety.
If the symptoms follow a change in activity or a known trigger and fade by themselves over a short period of time, then they are unlikely to be a cause for concern. However, if you notice other symptoms too, such as wheezing, a general feeling of fatigue or even sweating, then you could be fighting an infection or suffering from a condition which requires medical attention and medication.
Symptoms can often progress and worsen quickly, so it is important to visit a health centre as soon as possible if you feel your condition is not improving.
Changes to Moles or Freckles
Did you know that some people have up to four hundred moles over their entire body! In most cases these are normal marks with no cause for concern, but it is worth remembering that the presence of moles, freckles or other skin pigmentation is a precursor to certain types of skin cancer.
The general instruction given is to seek medical advice if you notice your mole has changed in appearance at all, has an irregular shape, has varying colours, is bigger than around 6mm or becomes painful to touch or is itchy.
Spotting troublesome moles early is really important in the effective treatment and prevention of further complications, so even if you are unsure, get it checked out.
Seeking a Second Opinion
You know your body and you will ultimately know if something is not ‘normal’ for you, even if it may be for other people. Where symptoms are generalised or can be associated with a number of conditions, there is a small chance that certain conditions may be overlooked.
Statistics suggest that around 24,000 people suffer from medical misdiagnosis each year, although it is worth pointing out that in the majority of cases, this does not relate to serious medical issues.
In very rare situations a patient could suffer as a result of medical negligence, which is when the doctor or medical professional has acted poorly, or not in accordance with standard procedures and practices.
If you feel your medical condition is not being taken seriously, do not feel disheartened. Ask for a second opinion and find a professional who will take your concerns on board and help you to find a resolution.
If you have experienced a health condition which was misdiagnosed, leading you to experience further symptoms, stress or loss of income, you could be entitled to compensation to help towards to costs of your continued care.
More advice on what may constitute a claim for medical and hospital negligence can be found at www.medicalnegligenceassist.co.uk and you can also find out how much you may be entitled to if your claim is successful.
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