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Symptoms that warrant a visit to the doctor

 Symptoms that warrant a visit to the doctor (Photo: iStock)

Our bodies are exposed to numerous disease-causing agents that with time, we may feel what seems like “normal” symptoms.

And true to this, many of these symptoms may not amount to anything serious. However, it is important to know your body.

As much as headache, nausea and fatigue can be a sign of flu, such could indicate heatstroke in older individuals. Here are a few more indicators to watch out for.

Swelling and pain in one leg

If you notice a painful swelling that does not go away, it could mean that you could be having a blood clot inside a vein. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). According to Pathologists Lancet Kenya, DVT can develop if you do not move for a long time such as when travelling long distances, recuperating from surgery, or being bedridden. It has been published in PubMed that, even though rare, DVT can happen in pregnancy if risk factors such as fertility treatment, over 35 years, obesity, carrying multiples, having severe varicose veins, or are having a caesarean section. Symptoms of DVT include red or discoloured skin on the leg, soreness or pain, and a feeling of warmth in the affected leg. DVT is a serious condition because the blood clots may break loose, travel through the circulatory system, and lodge in the lungs, blocking blood flow. This leads to pulmonary embolism, which could lead to death.

Vision changes

Poor vision tends to progress with age. However, when vision changes such as sudden double vision or the inability to focus on the centre of what you are looking at, you need to seek prompt medical attention. Such changes could indicate a stroke. “Common symptoms include a sudden numbness or weakness on any limb, facial dropping, difficulty in speaking or understanding speech. Other are sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, trouble seeing with one or both eyes, severe headache and drowsiness”, says Dr Edwin Mogere, a neurosurgeon at the Aga Khan University Hospital. A 2018 study published by scientists from the Kenya Medical Research Institute shows there is poor survival in the first year of stroke in Kenya, with men having favourable outcomes compared to women. Getting early signs of stroke checked out could improve stroke outcomes in women.

Bleeding moles

A mole is described according to the US National Cancer Institute as a benign - not cancer - growth on the skin that is formed by a cluster of melanocytes (melanin-making cells). A mole is usually dark and may be raised from the skin. As highlighted in the Avane Cosmetic Dermatology Clinic and Medical Spa, moles darken after sun exposure and pregnancy. Moles are normally nothing to worry about except when they bleed or change their form. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, moles are likely to be cancerous when they are;

Asymmetrical in appearance

Have a border that is irregular

Vary in colour

Have a diameter larger than a pencil eraser 

Evolve in size, colour and shape

This is known as the ABCDE rule. Monitor your moles closely if your family has a history of skin cancer.

Dramatic weight gain

Even though some women find it challenging to get rid of gestational weight due to uncontrollable cravings when they were “eating for two,” weight gain could mean an entirely different and serious problem when the increase is unexplained. We gain weight when the amount of calorie intake does not balance with physical activities. However, hypothyroidism and hormonal imbalance may cause unintentional weight gain. If you are finding it hard to tame your waistline, you could be looking at conditions that need prompt medical attention. Gynecologic cancer surgeon Sanaz Memarzadeh says that an expanding belly may in rare cases be a result of an ovarian tumour and fluid buildup associated with it. “Sometimes that tumour is so large I can cause distention of the abdomen”, she adds. Studies show that most cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed after menopause when it is most likely to be in advanced stages.

Weight loss without doing much

Weight loss is usually celebrated especially after dieting or working out for a while. However, if you seem to be dropping your kilos for no good reason, you should seek medical attention. Hyperthyroidism, depression, autoimmune diseases and cancer could explain sudden weight loss.

Blood in urine and faeces

Essentially, all kinds of bleeding where and when they should not is usually something to worry about. According to Cancer Care Kenya Limited, rectal bleeding or blood in stool is one of the symptoms of colorectal cancer. Blood in stool has also been linked to stomach ulcers. Bright red blood in stool indicates bleeding near the rectum. On the other hand, dark-coloured blood with stool shows that bleeding is likely to be higher up in the bowels. Non-menstrual bleeding warrants medical examination as it could be due to cervix inflammations, ectopic pregnancy, or cervical cancer.

Hair thinning

Hairstyling and chemicals cause a small degree of hair loss. However, when you seem to be losing a significant amount of hair regularly, it may indicate a more serious problem. Likely scenarios could be vitamin deficiency or autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

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