Thursday, 16 March 2017

Never ignore a symptom, which is unusual, unexplained or occurs for the first time in life

Never ignore a symptom, which is unusual, unexplained or occurs for the first time in life Indigestion, persistent cough, shortness of breath, constipation, fever, headache, feeling tired all the time are some common symptoms that many of us experience, but their significance is often undermined in the rush of the day to day life. We often ignore symptoms or minimize their significance and delay going to the doctor. But, this is how our body tries to tell us that all is not well and it’s time to see a doctor. These symptoms are important as they may be due to a disease. At times, many of these common symptoms may signal a serious disease condition. Messages describing the ‘warning signs’ of many diseases like cancer, heart attack, stroke etc. are often displayed in public places and even in clinics and hospitals for patients to read. Take cancer for an example. Some common warning signs of cancer have been defined: • Change in bowel or bladder habits. • A sore that does not heal. • Unusual bleeding or discharge. • Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles, or elsewhere. • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing. • Obvious change in the size, colour, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole, or mouth sore. • Nagging cough or hoarseness. • Weight loss Then there are warning signs of different types of cancer such as bowel cancer, lung cancer. Warning signs of bowel cancer may include: • A recent, persistent change in bowel habit • A change in appearance of bowel movements • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding • Feeling of incomplete evacuation • Unexplained anemia • Rectal/anal pain or a lump in the rectum/anus • Abdominal pain or swelling • Weight loss Some warning signs of lung cancer may include • Persistent cough • Change in a chronic cough • Shortness of breath • Pain in the chest area • Wheezing • Hoarseness of voice • Weight loss And the list may go on… Often people ignore warning signals and do not address them until they fall ill, often with grave consequences. So, instead of defining warning signals for each disease condition, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) advocates universal warning signals “Never ignore a symptom which is unusual (different than usual), unexplained or occurring for the first time in life”… They may be red flags to consult a doctor as soon as possible. • Do not ignore first attack of acidity after the age of 40 as it may be a sign of heart attack. All wheeze is not asthma and all asthmatics do not wheeze. • Do not ignore first attack of asthma after the age of 40 as it may be a sign of heart attack. • You may have been getting headaches for years but if the present episode of headache is unusual, severe and unexplained, you need immediate medical attention. • If you get up exhausted after hours of rest, this needs to be evaluated. Remember the following: • Signals for emergent attention mean to call the doctor right away. • Symptoms for urgent attention mean to contact the doctor same day. • Symptoms for attention mean doctor to be informed in the next visit. One should be able to differentiate emergent from urgent symptoms and signs. Emergency warrants medical attention within minutes. The window period for cardiac arrest is 10 minutes, for heart attack 3 hours, for stroke 3 hours and for stoppage of bleeding 1 hour. Stay alert to live longer and live healthy …. Dr KK Aggarwal National President IMA and HCFI

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