7 easily overlooked symptoms of serious health problems

Monitoring health normally involves routine doctor visits, but not every symptom is easy for doctors or medical tests to pick up. Numerous symptoms of some life-threatening diseases are easy to overlook because they are subtle and seem somewhat unimportant. In many cases, a serious disease only becomes apparent when its severity is at an advanced stage. This is due to any one symptom relating to several diseases which makes it difficult to pinpoint the disease causing it. Here are seven symptoms that hint at a different serious health problem to the one you are probably accustomed to:

1. Forgetfulness

blue cartoon elephant with a 'don't forget' sign

This symptom is commonly associated with dementia and it also has frequent links to old age, mild cognitive impairment, and emotional problems. These conditions make it easy to ignore the symptom’s connection to hypothyroidism. Statistics show that up to 60% of the people with hypothyroidism are unaware that they have it.

Brain development is among the vital functions of thyroid hormones hence low levels of the hormones slow down thought processes which in turn leads to forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. Research has shown that hypothyroidism particularly affects memories of verbally communicated information. Hypothyroidism is serious and chronic but treatment is possible, although it often requires lifelong thyroid hormone replacement.

2. Excessive bruising

bruised face of a blonde woman

Easy or excessive bruising is commonly associated with the weakening of blood vessels by medications such as aspirin and prednisolone, and deficiencies of vitamins C and K, and iron. This bruising can usually be rectified by discontinuing use of the medication or by taking vitamin and iron supplements. If the bruising is more difficult to fix it is probably indicative of leukemia.

There are several forms of leukemia and excessive bruising is a frequent symptom among them all. Leukemia lowers platelet count and inhibits the body’s ability to clot properly which leads to the excessive bruising. Although leukemia is a rare disease, it is the most common cancer among teens and children and it accounts for about 4% of all cancer deaths.

3. Hair loss

head losing hair and going bald

The loss of hair is normally hereditary or the result of hormonal changes, medication, and medical conditions such as stress and anemia. On average, a person loses about 100 hairs each day but a loss of many hairs or clumps of hair even in unlikely places like eyebrows and eyelashes may mean that lupus is the culprit.

Lupus causes inflammation and when the inflammation occurs on hair follicles, hair loss is highly likely. It is also common for lupus to cause lesions which damage hair follicles and cause permanent hair loss. Lupus is chronic and it affects at least five million people globally. Statistics show that it causes premature death in close to 15% of its patients.

4. Darkened skin

darkened skin with velvet texture
Source: Indian Dermatology Online Journal

Hormonal changes and sun exposure are two of the biggest causes of darkened skin. Other causes include infections and pigmentation disorders, but one cause that is often overlooked is diabetes. A patch of darkened skin with the texture of velvet that is found on the creases of the neck is a potential sign of high insulin levels and prediabetes.

This symptom requires immediate medical attention because diabetes is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. Diabetes accounts for close to two million deaths annually and it is the main cause of stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, and blindness.

5. Tooth damage

damaged teeth
Source: Irish News

There is a common misconception that tooth problems are the result of poor oral hygiene, but it is possible for tooth damage to stem from more serious health problems – gastrointestinal diseases. These diseases cause heartburn which then introduces stomach acids into the oral cavity. The acids erode tooth enamel, especially on the back teeth.

Eroded tooth enamel cannot be replaced naturally, and without any medical intervention, the damage is likely to result in tooth loss. Gastrointestinal diseases are a common cause of sudden death and noticing tooth damage early can save a life.

6. Handwriting changes

a hand that is writing

A symptom of Parkinson’s disease that is easily disregarded is a change in handwriting size. Most handwriting changes are attributed to emotional state or aging and this makes it hard to point to the change as a symptom. Nonetheless, it is possible to recognize the change as a result of Parkinson’s because it is distinctive.

Parkinson’s disease alters the activity in several parts of the brain and this causes tremors which make it difficult to control movement. This leads to a condition called micrographia which is characterized by small or cramped handwriting. Parkinson’s disease is not fatal and it is possible to alleviate it, however, it cannot be cured.

7. Irritability

four emoticon balls: sad, happy, angry, close to tears

Irritability is a natural emotion triggered by physical changes like hormonal fluctuations, fatigue, and lack of sleep, but it can also be the root of depression.  Depression is often portrayed as causing sadness, but constant inexplicable bouts of irritability are an elusive yet common sign of the illness.

Studies have shown that changes in neural activity are likely responsible for the irritability and bursts of anger. Depression is a health condition which affects over 300 million people globally and in its extremes, it normally leads to suicide.

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