As women, it is not unusual that we may ignore our health and wellbeing. For women living with a chronic illness such as borderline or type 2 diabetes, it is important to make our overall health and wellbeing our number one priority.
I have seen female patients who have ignored symptoms that later turned out to be very serious.
In this article I outline five common symptoms that should never be ignored. This is because contrary to ‘popular wisdom’ these symptoms may be a sign of more serious illness.
Rule of thumb is that if you experience any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks then it is time to schedule an appointment to see your healthcare provider.
Heartburn is a common complaint. It is also called ‘indigestion’, or ‘reflux’. It is caused when stomach acid moves back up the swallowing tube (called the esophagus).
There are many things that can cause heartburn. Some of the common reasons include certain foods such as spices, tomatoes. Caffeine intake, emotional stress and fat around the abdomen (abdominal obesity) are also causes of heartburn.
One uncommon symptom that may mimic heartburn but is something more serious is a heart attack!
The heart sits in the chest wall directly above the stomach and is separated by the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It is very important in breathing. If you have a heart attack that affects the bottom of the heart that sits on the diaphragm part, it may mimic the symptoms of heartburn.
How do you know it’s not heartburn?
If you have never experienced heartburn before and right out of the blue you begin to experience this more frequently -this is a strong clue! Also if you break out in a sweat, feel your heart racing or have nausea or vomiting. Another thing to observe is if you don’t recall anything that you may have eaten that could be causing you to feel this way.
Rule of thumb when it comes to heartburn that you cannot explain, get checked out immediately. This is especially important if you have a family history of heart disease
2-Frequent vaginal yeast infections
A common reason for vaginal itching is a yeast infection called candida albicans. Candida is not sexually transmitted. It can cause a rash on the labia, itching and also a thick vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese.
There are many reasons why a woman may get yeast infections. This may include wearing tight underwear, stress, antibiotics, and hormonal contraceptives to name a few.
However frequent candida infections may be a hidden sign of diabetes mellitus. Yeast love sugar; the candida spores usually live in the digestive tract, but diabetes mellitus affects that acidity of the vagina and this way promotes the growth of yeast.
Rule of thumb, if you have frequent yeast infections more than 2 -3 times a year, then inform your healthcare provider. A simple fasting blood sugar is a great screening tool to find out if you have borderline or type 2 diabetes.
3-A constant dry cough
Have you ever met people who constantly have a cough and short of breath? Perhaps you or someone you know may have even gone to your doctor and been told that you have ‘allergies’. The fact is that this may be a sign of a serious lung disease called sarcoidosis.
The medical profession does not really know what causes sarcoidosis. It is common between the ages of 20 and 40 years old and can affect both men and women. It is three to four times more common in black people. If you have a family member with sarcoidosis then this increases the probability of another family member having it.
Sarcoidosis can progress from a very mild illness to a very serious illness.
Rule of thumb if you have a cough especially with shortness of breath and chest pain that persists for more than a month then I recommend that you schedule a visit with your healthcare provider.
4-A facial rash that won’t go away
Do you have a red rash around your nose and cheeks that gets worse in the summer? This could be a disease called systemic lupus erythematosus –‘lupus’ for short.
Once again this is one of those illnesses that we in the medical community really can’t pin down a definite cause for. We do know that it is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body forms compounds that literally fight itself breaking it down. These are called antibodies. Because it is an autoimmune disease it can affect literally any organ in the body. This is why it can be a challenge to diagnose.
Lupus is more common in women and recently there have been campaigns to increase the public awareness of this disease.
Rule of thumb if you have a rash with an outline that looks like the wings of a butterfly over your nose and cheeks, gets worse in the sunlight and just does not seem to go away, see your healthcare provider to get blood tests for lupus.
Lupus can show up in many ways, for more information click here
Now this is a tough one. I mean as women we are built to be resilient, right?. We are super mommies, caregivers, professional women, working women. We burn the candle at both ends trying to meet each and every obligation thrust upon us. So naturally we will become fatigued right?
Well here are some additional clues that that fatigue may be a sign of something more:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold even in warm weather
- Growing fuzzy fine hair on your skin
- Dry brittle skin and nails
- A feeling of depression
These symptoms may be due to a low active thyroid called hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland produces a hormone that is responsible for maintaining our metabolism. Hypothyroidism becomes more common in women over the age of fifty.
Rule of thumb- if you are experiencing constant fatigue that you can’t explain then you can get a simple test called TSH from your primary care provider.
Well I hope that you find this information helpful. Always remember it’s better to be safe than sorry. By tuning in to the wisdom of our bodies we can live more fulfilling lives.
Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
To your health and wellbeing