As we get older, even those of us in the best of health will have various unusual symptoms. Some boomers and seniors ignore these problems or dismiss them as part of aging. But these six symptoms should never be ignored; they should be diagnosed as soon as possible:
1. Sharp pain in a joint: It could be nothing. Maybe you bumped your elbow or knee without even noticing it. But sudden sharp pain in a joint, especially if it gets worse or doesn’t go away after a day or two, could be something more serious. If the pain occurs more than once, see a doctor.
2. Sudden headaches: If you suddenly begin experiencing frequent headaches for the first time in your life, see your regular physician first. He or she can help decide whether the symptom is serious enough to see a neurologist. Even if aspirin or ibuprofen relieves the headaches, don’t rely solely on such medication. Find out what’s causing the pain.
3. Unexplained bleeding: If you pass blood from the rectum or genitals on more than one occasion, or if you suddenly begin having nosebleeds or spitting up blood, that symptom needs an immediate examination. If the bleeding comes from a body opening below the waist, you probably will need to see a gastrointestinal specialist.
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4. Extreme tenderness in any body part: If you experience a new and somewhat constant pain in a fleshy body part, and it doesn’t stop within a week, have a doctor examine the site. In fact, this can actually be an emergency if the pain is located between the ribs and hips. You may have swallowed a sharp object that is piercing tissues or there may be an intestinal blockage. Never dismiss lingering mid-body pain as “just a stomach ache.”
5. Strange lumps under the skin: The appearance of a lump under the skin, no matter where it appears on your body, is suspicious. Don’t ever ignore it. It probably isn’t a malignant lump, but it’s always best to make sure with a biopsy.
6. Strange marks on the skin: Most people know that changes in a mole need to be diagnosed. But moles aren’t the only thing on skin that could be serious. An annual skin examination of your entire body is a good thing. But if a patch of skin becomes red and flaky, or turns white or darkens, don’t wait for that annual exam. Have it looked at right away.
Never allow the cost of a doctor visit or co-payment stop you from seeing a doctor. If you’re in a dire financial situation, and don’t know of a church or charitable organization that can offer help, make a doctor’s appointment anyway. You can make payment arrangements when the examination is over, and the physician’s staff may even know of ways to find financial help.
If the only doctor you know is your family practitioner, and you need a specialist, you can ask for a recommendation or use the internet to search for one locally. If the specialist has a long waiting list, your practitioner may intervene to arrange an appointment sooner. Call your regular doctor’s office to discuss the issue so that you don’t have to pay for an extra office visit.