Everyone tries to stay healthy and avoid unnecessary visits to the doctor. People with the best of intentions and careful efforts can end up in the waiting room. Knowing the difference between fluctuations in physical function and dangerous developments can save your life. Learn about signs of actionable health concerns and be your own advocate.

1. Unusual Skin Discoloration 

The skin makes up the biggest organ of the human body and changes can indicate a wide variety of problems. Persistent bruises can look like dark and painful areas of skin anywhere on the body. Bruising that does not resolve in a timely manner can indicate anything from a blood clotting abnormality to a serious blood disease like leukemia. Yellowing skin can be a sign of jaundice and organ dysfunction. Spots with rough borders should be checked by a dermatologist in order to catch skin cancer early. Take pictures to document your concerns and remember that no question is too small to matter.  

2. Visual Changes

Distortions in vision may be related to irritation from seasonal allergies or hallmark signs of internal head trauma. Always check your vision for changes after a hit to the head. Patients with diagnosed chronic conditions should ask whether they need to have their eyes checked. Conditions like diabetes and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome have links to an increased risk of ocular issues. Protect your vision by seeking care when changes interfere with your activities.

3. Intense Headaches

Sudden severe or prolonged headaches are not normal everyday occurrences for the average person. Such an experience may be the sign of a potentially calamitous stroke. Seek immediate emergency medical care if you encounter the worst headache of your life. Changes in vocal abilities and confusion are also neurological signs of stroke. An unbearable headache paired with a stiff neck may be a sign of meningitis. Time is of the essence when the health of your brain is in question. 

4. Severe Vomiting 

Sudden, severe, and unrelenting vomiting or diarrhea can be a symptom of a serious infection or obstruction. Vomiting can also be a sign of internal brain damage after a head injury. Avoid dangerous electrolyte imbalances that can impact cardiac function and seek supportive care. Doctors may be able to treat infection, examine imaging, and infuse intravenous hydration fluids.   

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5. Difficulty Breathing

Shortness of breath, fever and crackling lungs can be signs of pneumonia. This can be especially threatening for people with underlying conditions and vulnerabilities. Difficulty breathing because of a dry or productive cough that will not go away should be examined by a doctor. Breathing difficulties can also be signs of a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to an allergen. People who experience an anaphylactic reaction or start to cough up blood should be seen by a doctor immediately.  

6. Heavy Bleeding

People who experience uncontrolled bleeding that does not stop after several minutes of direct pressure should receive immediate medical assistance. This can be related to a specific injury or worsened by a disease that impacts slow blood clotting. Make sure to determine any underlying conditions that lead to excessive bleeding with your doctor.  

7. Sudden Weight Difference

Significant fluctuations in weight outside of normal ranges for your unique body can be indicators of internal problems. A sudden loss or gain in weight can be a sign of thyroid dysfunction for example. Fluid retention may be indicative of dangerous cardiac changes. Many other disease processes and mental health challenges can lead to weight changes and should be addressed by a doctor.

8. Chest Pain

Chest pain is serious and the related conditions often require swift medical action. Seek immediate care for new or worsening chest pain that may be a sign of a heart attack. Left-arm pain is a common sign of a heart attack and women are likely to also experience nausea or back pain. Get to an emergency room or call 911 for an ambulance if you experience signs of a heart attack.

These concerns are not comprehensive or exclusive and there are numerous other issues that your doctor should take note of and address. Every patient is different and may present with an array of acute symptoms. Be proactive and vigilant about protecting your one life.