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How to spot the warning signs of serious health problems

September 30, 2015

When you’re focussing on bringing up kids, you might find that your health sometimes takes a back seat. Also, if you’re suffering from a lack of sleep and feel generally stressed out, it can be hard to separate the symptoms of tiredness from those of potentially serious health problems. With this in mind, here’s a brief guide to help you spot the warning signs of some major medical issues.

Breast cancer

Each year in the UK, nearly 50,000 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. However, if the disease is diagnosed early enough, effective treatments are available and survival rates are high. The most obvious sign of this condition is a lump or patch of thickened tissue on the breast. Others giveaways can include swelling in the armpits, a dimpling of the skin on the breasts, a rash around the nipples, a change in size of one of both breasts, discharge from the nipples or a change in the appearance of the nipples. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to book an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Heart disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a major killer. Each year, it is responsible for more than 70,000 deaths across the country. The main symptoms of this condition are chest pain and heart attacks, but there are earlier warning signs to watch out for. For example, if you start to experience heart palpitations or you suffer from unusual breathlessness, you may benefit from being tested for CHD.

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Another condition to watch out for is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is the formation of blood clots in your veins. If they are not treated, these clots can detach from their original sites, travel through the body and become lodged in the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism and it is potentially life-threatening. You’re particularly at risk of DVT if you’ve been sitting or lying down for a long time and the most noticeable symptom is usually pain and swelling in one of the legs (often in the calf). Another giveaway is a patch of warm or red skin, usually below the knee at the back of the leg. If you’re concerned that you may have DVT, don’t hesitate in seeking medical help.

Spotting health problems in the men in your life

As well as looking out for signs of illness in yourself, you may be able to spot symptoms in the men in your life. For example, if your other half has problems getting or maintaining an erection, this could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Erectile dysfunction (ED) can have psychological triggers, such as stress or depression, but it can also be caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels associated with medical problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. In fact, research published recently in the Annals of Family Medicine suggested that ED should be a sign to start diabetes screening. A team from the University of British Columbia found that men with ED were more than twice as likely than those without the condition to have undiagnosed diabetes.

Another health problem to watch out for in men is prostate cancer. Unfortunately, this disease can develop for years without causing symptoms. However, possible signs include an increased need to urinate, difficulty in starting to pee, straining while urinating and a feeling that the bladder has not fully emptied.

Knowing how to spot the signs of illnesses means you can get diagnosed and treated more quickly, so it’s a good idea to get clued up. If you spot an abnormality or anything you’re not quite sure of, you can visit sites such as IGP which can give you an online diagnosis and treatment advice,  so it’s a good idea to get clued up.

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