From Florida Hospital - Apopka
Admit it. You probably don’t have the time, or the patience, to seek medical attention for every ache or pain. And, minor discomfort is usually just that —unpleasant but something that goes away. Yet, some trivial-sounding symptoms can be a red flag for something more serious. Below, Florida Hospital medical specialists help you distinguish between what’s not a big deal and what’s dire.
WARNING SIGN: PAIN AND SWELLING IN CALF
Likely cause: Pulled Muscle
Worst-case scenario: Blood clot in the leg
If your calf is on fire, it could be deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), or a blood clot. When you sit for long periods — whether it’s on your way to a dream vacation or glued to your desk — blood pools in your lower legs and can form a clot. When it’s large enough, it can block a vein in your leg, producing pain and swelling.
“Unfortunately, the first thing you’ll probably want to do — rub your leg — is the worst thing,” says David Varnagy, MD, a vascular surgeon with Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute. “It can send a big clot running up to your lung, where it can be very harmful.”
When to Act: If symptoms happen suddenly, immediately call your doctor or go to the emergency department. You’ll have a sonogram on your legs to find the presence of blood clots and a CT scan of your chest to make sure it hasn’t moved to your lungs. If you have a clot, you’ll need to take blood thinners — sometimes for up to a year — to dissolve it.
WARNING SIGN: BLOATING AND PELVIC PAIN
Likely cause: Gastrointestinal bug
Worst-case scenario: Ovarian cancer
Who hasn’t sometimes felt like an overinflated balloon — especially after a big meal? But if it happens often and the problem is new, the worst-case scenario is ovarian cancer. Other early warning signs include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, and difficulty eating.
When to Act: If you start experiencing symptoms daily for more than two or three weeks, see your gynecologist immediately. If cancer is suspected, your doctor will send you to a gynecologic oncologist for an ultrasound or a CT scan to check for a tumor. The good news, says James Kendrick, MD, a gynecologic oncologist with the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, is that the five-year survival rates for ovarian cancer are 90 percent in women who are diagnosed early.
WARNING SIGN: TROUBLE FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS
Likely cause: Sleep deprivation
Worst-case scenario: Stroke
We’ve all mangled words one time or another. But if word problems amount to more than a fleeting tongue twister, it could be a stroke, where a blood vessel in the brain either bursts or is blocked by a clot, depriving brain cells of oxygen. Weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, dizziness, blurred vision, headache, neck stiffness or lack of coordination are all red flags.
When to act: “A ruptured aneurysm can cause brain damage within minutes, so call 9-1-1 immediately,” says Indrani Acosta, MD, a neurologist with the Florida Hospital Neuroscience Institute. Your doctor will take a CT scan to look for bleeding in the space around the brain. If hemorrhaging is found, you’ll head into the operating room pronto for surgery to repair the blood vessel.
WARNING SIGN: NUMBNESS IN YOUR LEGS
Likely cause: Herniated disk
Worst-case scenario: Irreversible nerve damage
If you’ve just helped your son or daughter move into a college dormitory, anti inflammatories should banish the pain. “It could be a disk pressing on the spinal nerve,” says Chetan Patel, MD, ortopaedic surgeon with Florida Hospital Altamonte. Without proper attention, you risk permanent nerve damage. An X-ray or MRI can show whether a disk in your back has slipped or ruptured. As long as the numbness isn’t getting worse, your doctor will probably prescribe physical therapy along with oral steroids to reduce nerve inflammation. But if you’re still laid up after a few months, you may need surgery to remove the disk.
When to act: If over-the-counter anti-inflammatories don’t work, hobble to an orthopedic specialist.
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