As women endeavor to do their best in their home life and profession, they often start neglecting their health. They tend to brush off aches and pains, discomfort and fatigue, which in turn have serious consequences on their health later on.
Today’s women need to give their health due importance to remain healthy and fit for themselves as well as their families.
When women start paying attention to their bodies and make it a point to see their doctor on a regular basis, many diseases can be diagnosed early and proper treatment can prevent serious or even fatal outcomes.
Women’s health concerns are as unique as their bodies. They need to understand their body thoroughly and take good care of themselves.
Health problems among women not only affect their beauty and body, but also their ability to have children and take care of their family.
Here are the top 10 medical symptoms women shouldn’t ignore.
1. Constant Fatigue and Tiredness
Even with an overwhelming number of responsibilities to take care of, exhaustion and tiredness is something a woman just shouldn’t ignore.
If you get tired sometimes due to a busy schedule and feel energetic again after proper rest, then it is not a big deal. However, if fatigue has become a regular part of your life, it can be a classic case of chronic fatigue syndrome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1 and 4 million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and it is four times more common in women than men.
Constant fatigue could also be a sign of a medical problem. There are several medical conditions linked to fatigue, including depression, liver failure, anemia, cancer, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, sleep apnea and diabetes.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology indicates that fatigue is more predominant in women than men.
Plus, the differences in fatigue between males and females depend on both the presence of testosterone and the activation of ASIC3, an acid-activated ion channel protein.
If you frequently feel fatigued, a visit to your doctor can help pinpoint the cause.
2. New Moles
Be it men or women, everyone has moles on their skin. On average, most people have at least 10 moles and they can appear anywhere on the body. Women in particular should keep a close eye on their moles, as changes in moles can be associated with melanoma.
A 2015 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology looked at 3,594 twins and found that women with more than seven moles on their right arm were nine times more likely to have more than 50 moles on their whole body. A higher number of moles means a higher risk of melanoma.
Women should be aware of the ABCDE’s of melanoma, which is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and American Academy of Dermatology to help detect a problem.
It provides an easy way to remember what to look for when checking the moles on your body. Take note of moles that have:
A – an asymmetrical shape
B – uneven borders
C – changed in color
D – changed in diameter
E – evolved over time, increasing in size or bleeding.
You also should not disregard a new spot if you get one. These are all reasons to have a mole evaluated by a specialist.
3. Breast Lumps
Any kind of redness, swelling or lump in one or both of your breasts may signal breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass.
While a painless, hard lump with irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, even a tender, soft or rounded lump that is painful can be cancerous.
Along with lumps, swelling or discoloration (purple or red spots) may be signs of inflammatory breast cancer.
Apart from cancer, breast lumps and other problems can be due to hormonal changes in the body, a breast infection or fat necrosis (damaged tissue). Hence, any kind of lump, swelling or pain in the breast needs to be checked by a doctor.
The National Cancer Institute recommends that women older than 40 get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years to detect signs of breast cancer early.
4. Chest Pain or Discomfort
Any kind of chest pain or discomfort should never be taken lightly as it can indicate heart disease, one of the main causes of death in women.
Even though cardiovascular disease accounts for 43 percent of all female deaths in the United States, women still ignore chest pain or attribute it to heartburn or indigestion. This contributes to late diagnosis of heart disease.
Women are often diagnosed with coronary artery disease at a much older age than men. Prior to menopause, the female hormone estrogen helps maintain adequate levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is important for cardiovascular health.
But, after menopause, the ovaries stop making estrogen. Thus, women become more prone to heart disease after menopause, due to the lower estrogen level in the body.
Along with chest pain, if you experience weakness, hot flashes, shortness of breath, cold sweats and pain in the left arm or shoulder, immediately see a doctor.
5. Vaginal Bleeding after Menopause
Vaginal bleeding of any kind after menopause is never normal. It may be harmless, but it can be an early indicator of cancer, including endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma as well as cancer of the cervix or vagina.
Other prominent causes of postmenopausal vaginal bleeding include thinning of the tissue lining the uterus, uterine fibroids and polyps, infection of the uterine lining, pelvic trauma and endometrial hyperplasia.
The cause of your postmenopausal bleeding may be entirely harmless. However, don’t be embarrassed to bring it up to your doctor, as sometimes it can be very serious and need timely assessment.
In fact, any kind of changes in your monthly cycle, such as very heavy bleeding, bleeding that lasts longer than normal and bleeding that occurs after sex or between periods, should be reported to your doctor.
6. Painful Intercourse
According to the World Health organization, painful sex or dyspareunia affects 8–22% of women at some point during their lives, thus making it one of the most common pain problems faced by women.
There can be several reasons behind it, including menopause. With menopause, the vaginal lining loses its normal moisture and becomes dry, causing dyspareunia, or painful intercourse.
A 2008 study published in Pain Research & Management reports that dyspareunia is common in postmenopausal women, and it is not necessarily correlated with menopausal status, estrogen levels or vaginal atrophy.
Even childbirth can cause painful intercourse. A 2015 study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that operative birth is associated with persisting pain during or after sexual intercourse.
Other possible causes include ovarian cysts, infections of the uterus or fallopian tubes, scar tissue from old infections or surgeries, endometriosis or fibroids.
7. Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain
The next time you get on the scale and notice a slight variation in your weight, do not panic. Your body weight can fluctuate anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds per day on average, and this is very normal.
However, when weight fluctuation is very noticeable and occurs without making any changes in your diet and daily routine, be alert. There may be something wrong.
Unexplained and sudden weight loss or weight gain of 10 pounds or more can be a sign of problems like cancer (most commonly linked to cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus and lungs), celiac disease, diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disorder, depression, stress, digestive problems, nutritional deficiencies, and fluid retention.
At times, changes in hormone levels can cause a drop or rise in body weight. However, instead of making assumptions on your own, always consult a doctor to find out the underlying cause.
8. Frequent Headaches or Migraines
It is true that women are more prone to headaches and migraines than men. The occasional headache after a stressful day is understandable, but sudden and persistent headaches can indicate certain health problems.
A severe headache is one of the signs of a stroke, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In fact, a headache can also be an early warning sign of other serious health issues like high blood pressure.
A 2013 study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting notes that a migraine with aura may lead to a heart attack or blood clots in women.
Migraines also worsen as women approach menopause, according to a 2016 study published the American Headache Society’s Journal of Head and Face Pain.
If you are experiencing sudden or frequent headaches, talk to your doctor about options for relief and to rule out the possibility that the headaches are related to some underlying condition.
9. Abdominal Discomfort with Gas or Bloating
If you are having sudden abdominal discomfort and you feel gassy and bloated most of the days in a month, it’s cause for concern.
According to a 2007 report released by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, bloating, as well as pelvic or abdominal pain and difficulty eating are some early symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Gas and bloating can also signal inflammatory bowel syndrome, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or diverticulitis, which needs to be diagnosed and treated timely to reduce the need for surgery.
At times, abdominal pain can even signal an appendicitis, a stomach ulcer or a gallbladder problem.
Consult your doctor if you are experiencing severe or frequent abdominal discomfort or any persistent change in bowel habits, such as mild diarrhea lasting a week, constipation that lasts more than a couple of weeks, sudden urges to have a bowel movement, bloody diarrhea and black or tarry-colored stools.
10. Leg Swelling
Pregnancy is a common factor related to fluid buildup and swelling in the legs.
However, there are many other underlying health conditions that can cause leg swelling, including peripheral edema, chronic kidney disease, cirrhosis, deep vein thrombosis, Achilles tendon rupture, knee bursitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and a sprained ankle.
Swelling in one leg can also mean a blood clot, which is even more dangerous if left untreated. A blood clot can travel through your veins up to your lungs, cutting off your oxygen supply and ultimately leading to a heart attack.
If you experience leg swelling without any known reason, consult your physician. Along with swelling, redness or blistering on the legs needs to be checked by a doctor.