There are some aches and pains you can safely ignore. It could be a headache following an all-nighter you might have pulled studying for an exam. Or, it could be a backache following a long drive to a distant destination. Or, it could be gas pain following a visit to your favourite all-you-can-eat restaurant. One common characteristic of these pains is that you have experienced them before and you can pinpoint their cause. You also know from past experience that these pains will subside with time and/or rest.
But there are some pains you should never ignore. These pains might be extreme or ones you have never experienced before or ones whose cause you are unable to pinpoint. These pains require immediate medical attention. Here’s a list of some of the most important ones that fall in this category:
1. The Worst Headache of Your Life:
It could be a sign of something very serious. It could indicate severe high blood pressure (above 180/110), stroke, or a brain tumour. Meningitis (an infection of the brain’s lining) may also cause a headache. Warning signs of meningitis are a sudden onset of a headache accompanied by fever, stiff neck, and visual problems (double vision).
2. Pain or Discomfort in the Chest:
Chest pain could be a sign of pneumonia or heart attack. Discomfort rather than pain, however, is more typical of heart condition. The discomfort could be in the upper chest, throat, jaw, left shoulder or arm, or abdomen and might be accompanied by nausea. It’s very common for people to misinterpret these signs as heartburn or gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Call 911 without delay, particularly if you are in a risk category.
3. Severe Abdominal Pain:
Just about everyone has a stomach ache once in a while. But sudden severe abdominal pain shouldn’t be ignored. It could be due to any one of range of serious conditions including appendicitis, GI bleeding or blockage, pancreatitis, gall stones, or urinary tract infection. See your doctor promptly.
4. Calf Pain:
There are many causes of calf pain, but if it comes on without any apparent rhyme or reason it could be serious. One possible cause is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can occur in the veins deep in the leg. The danger is that a piece of the clot could break loose and lodge in the lungs, which could be fatal. Some of the risk factors of DVT are cancer, obesity, immobility due to prolonged bed rest or long-distance travel, pregnancy, and advanced age. Seek immediate medical attention, especially if you fall into any of these risk categories.
5. Burning Feet or Legs:
A very high percentage of people who have diabetes don’t know it because they have not sought professional medical diagnosis. If you have a burning or pins-and-needles sensation in the feet or legs it could be due to nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy). Peripheral neuropathy could be one of the first signs of diabetes. You should see your doctor as soon as possible.
6. Vague Hard-to-Describe Pains:
These are mild chronic pains such as headache, abdominal pain, or pain in the limbs. Because they are not debilitating you might not seek the advice of a health care professional. But these pains could be a sign of depression. Other signs include lack of interest in activities and people, inability to work and think effectively, and an inclination to avoid social interaction. If you experience these symptoms you should seek prompt medical attention as depression not only adversely affects the quality of life, but it could also lead to undesirable long-term changes in brain structure.