Elections 2017

Symptoms you should never ignore, like coughing at night


How clued up are you when it comes to your health

A study found one in six Brits had experienced heart problem symptoms – yet a quarter did not seek medical help.

The research, by health insurer Cigna Europe, found awareness of detecting and addressing heart health problems was low in the UK, with only 30% of people knowing their blood pressure – the lowest percentage of all 22 countries surveyed.

Here are 15 sets of symptoms you should never ignore, as they could be a sign of a potentially serious health issue.

A tight feeling in the jaw

Women don’t always get the classic crushing chest pain many men report when having a heart attack, but can instead present with jaw or neck ache, extreme tiredness and nausea.

Ignoring these lesser-known symptoms puts women at an increased risk of dying compared to men the same age.

Itchy, swollen lips

This can be a sign of anaphylactic shock, the most deadly allergic reaction. While most allergies aren’t fatal, when they involve your lips or tongue, the airways can be affected too, leading to swelling and constricting, which can quickly make breathing difficult.

What to do: If you carry an epi-pen use it immediately.

Slurred speech

Garbled speech or mixed-up words can be signs of a stroke. Other symptoms include drooping on one side of the face, numbness on one side of the body and a sudden severe headache.

Sudden flashes of light

If this eye symptom comes on quickly, you need to see an optometrist urgently. It can means a torn retina, which could lead to a detached retina and permanent vision loss. Early detection and treatment is vital to avoid lasting blindness.

What to do: See your optometrist/optician within 24 hours.

Abnormal-looking fingernails

Pale nails are linked to anaemia, congestive heart failure or liver disease, while blueish nails can mean you’re not getting enough oxygen and may have a lung or heart problem.

What to do: Discuss this with your GP.

A change in your handwriting

If, for example, your handwriting has got smaller, bigger, or become very messy, this can indicate a neurological disorder such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or a brain tumour.

What to do: See your GP urgently.

A dull belly button pain

Indigestion or a tummy bug are the most common causes, but if pain behind the belly button doesn’t resolve in a few hours it can be a sign of appendicitis, gall bladder issues, bowel obstructions or stomach ulcers.

What to do: If the pain gets worse and you feel very unwell, go to A&E.

A night-time cough

Coughing every night in bed, if you aren’t recovering from a cold, and don’t have asthma or acid reflux, can be an early sign of congestive heart failure. This happens because fluid builds up in the chest and heart when you’re lying flat for an extended period of time, causing you to cough.

What to do: See your GP urgently.

The worst headache of your life

Severe headaches – often described by patients as “the worst I’ve ever had” – that come from nowhere can be a sign of a brain bleed, a ruptured blood vessel in the brain, a stroke or maybe meningitis .

Tingling down one arm

An intense feeling of pins and needles down one arm that lasts for more than 30 minutes, especially if accompanied by dizziness or nausea, can be a sign you’re having a heart attack.

Sweating a lot at night

Unless you are a woman going through the menopause, sudden night sweats are not normal and could be a sign of bowel cancer, lymphoma or leukaemia.

What to do: See your GP urgently.

Feeling full quickly despite not eating much

Fullness or a general loss of appetite can be an early sign of ovarian cancer, especially if it comes along with bloating, pelvic pain or pressure and bladder problems.

What to do: See your GP urgently.

Bruising a lot

Most of the time, bruising isn’t a problem, but if you’re suddenly bruising very easily, it can be linked to a vitamin K or C deficiency, or leukaemia or liver disease.

What to do: Discuss with your GP.

A persistent croaky voice

If croakiness persists for longer than three weeks, it can be a sign of silent reflux – when acid from the stomach comes back up the oesophogus and irritates the throat. A scratchy voice can also be an early sign of throat cancer and so should always be checked out.

What to do: See your GP.

Unexplained weight loss

If you haven’t made any changes to your diet or exercise routine but you’ve still lost a fair bit of weight you should see your doctor, as unexplained weight loss can be a sign of many health conditions, including cancer.

What to do: See your GP urgently.