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Symptoms that could point to a time bomb

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th November 2010 03:00 AM

WHEN many people feel pain, they are quick to take painkillers and carry on with their duties. When the pain returns, they resort to stronger drugs and rejoice when they defeat the pain.

WHEN many people feel pain, they are quick to take painkillers and carry on with their duties. When the pain returns, they resort to stronger drugs and rejoice when they defeat the pain.

DoOyou often feel pain for which your are always quick to take painkillers? Vicky Wandawa writes why you should establish the cause before reaching for that pill

Silent health threats
WHEN many people feel pain, they are quick to take painkillers and carry on with their duties. When the pain returns, they resort to stronger drugs and rejoice when they defeat the pain.

But, did you know that the body uses pain to tell the brain that something is wrong? Doctors advise that one should never ignore pain.

Any type of pain needs prompt medical check-up to establish the underlying cause. It could also be a sign of a life-threatening health condition.

Dr. Paul Semugoma, a physician at International Medical Centre, says a number of health conditions exhibit signs when it is too late. He cites heart diseases and cancer as the number one silent killers.

The latter may spread to other parts of the body before pain sets in. Pain, however mild, could be an indication that something is wrong and should, therefore, never be ignored.

So what are some of those life-threatening conditions we often ignore as mere pain?

Recurring headaches
Henry Bukenya, a physician at Mulago Hospital, says scalp headache; the kind where the entire head pains, usually signifies stress, fatigue, dehydration or hypertension.

The underlying cause should be looked into because extreme conditions such as stress could cause heart diseases.
Frontal headache could be a sign of chronic conditions such as sinuses, while headache on the side of the head could be a result of an infection such as flu or malaria.

A sharp headache, on the other hand, could point to a migraine; however this is usually accompanied by blurred vision and nausea. Headache associated with nausea could also indicate a lesion on the brain.

Semugoma says a blackout should not be ignored, especially when it happens more than once.

Bukenya adds that recurrent blackouts signify complications in the blood circulatory system and could point to hypertension.

“The amount of blood could have been reduced, for example as a result of over bleeding during periods, subsequently causing anaemia.”

Blackouts could also be due to neurological complications such as seizures, and if not handled in the primary stages, seizures can develop into epilepsy.

Heavy periods
Some women naturally experience heavy periods. However, for those whose periods suddenly become heavier, there is reason for concern.

Jamal Abduo, a gynaecologist at Paragon Hospital, says complications are diagnosed depending on the duration of menstruation, the amount of flow which one can tell from the number times they have to change sanitary pads, the presence of clots, anaemia or a combination of some or all the above.

Heavy bleeding may be as result of psychological problems such as anxiety; congestion in the pelvis, fibroids, ovarian cancer, some types of contraceptives and tubal (ectopic) pregnancy.

Swollen feet and legs
Bukenya says this is caused by accumulation of fluids in the lymphatic system. In women, it mostly occurs during pregnancy.

Swollen feet could also indicate heart failure, gout, liver or kidney diseases. Others are hypertension, diabetes, dehydration and anaemia. One should, therefore, seek immediate medical attention when the feet swell.

Painful joints
This could be an indication of development of a skeletal system complication, for example arthritis (inflammation of joints). Painful joints could also be an indication of neurological diseases such as nerve complications, malaria or malnutrition.

Chest pain
Besides infection, chest pain could indicate a blockage of the coronary arteries, the vessels that take blood to the heart. It could also mean there is a clot in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs.

Misaki Wayengera, a lecturer at the College School of Sciences, Makerere University, says this mainly occurs in obese people and accident victims, and could be fatal if not attended to immediately.

Swelling of the abdomen
Wayengera says this could point to intestinal obstruction, liver problems or cancer. Focal swelling, however, could be an indication of hernia, while swelling of prominent vessels on the abdomen, particularly originating from the umbilicus, could point to portal hypertension — increase in pressure within the portal vein (which carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver).

Difficulty in breathing
This means the structure of the lungs has been compromised. Besides a common cold, difficulty in breathing could indicate pneumonia or tuberculosis, particularly when associated with a fever and sweating at night.

Difficult breathing could indicate inflammation and chronic obstructive lung diseases particularly in smokers and diabetic patients.

Coughing blood
This, Wayengera says, could point to damaged lungs and heart problems. According to online sources, this could also be a result of bronchitis, inflammation of the blood vessels in the lungs, irritation of the throat due to violent coughing, pneumonia or tuberculosis.

Feeling tired and general body weakness could point to an unfit heart or a swelling originating from the brain or spinal code. If it is caused by a tumour, this could lead to paralysis.

Pins and needles
This could point to diabetes or a tumour. Semugoma says one should go for regular check-up even when not sick or when experiencing a little pain.

Bukenya says frequent visits to the doctor can lead to early detection of fatal diseases such as cancer, heart complications and diabetes. There are diseases you can never tell you are suffering from, particularly because they do not show symptoms until it is late.

Cancer, for example, is painless, until it is its advanced stage, so the only way it can be detected in the early/curables stages is to do routine check-ups.

Chances of survival are high when cancer is detected early. Early treatment means better chance for survival, less treatment costs and fewer side effects from the treatment.

Take an example of cancer, when detected early, its chances of spreading are limited. “You might be feeling perfectly healthy but your lifestyle could be posing danger to your health. Take for example bad eating habits could be leading cause obesity and heart diseases. A doctor can advise on how to eat healthy,” Bukenya says.

Furthermore, genetic diseases may not exhibit signs and symptoms for example hypertension and heart disease, but can be offset by causative factors such as stress or your eating habits.

A medical examination could also save you high costs of treatment or severe complications.

Ovarian cancer, the silent killer
Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common women’s cancer. About 6,000 women are diagnosed per year. It is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it is usually detected late.

Screening for ovarian cancer is not an exact tool and many false positive results are identified. There has been a debate within the medical circles as to the relative benefit and harm of raising public awareness of the symptoms, including abdominal swelling/bloating that may serve as early warning signs of the illness.

Those symptoms can be indicators of other conditions apart from ovarian cancer, and their identification as early signs of cancer can cause great anxiety to patients, which may be counterproductive. Others, however, argue that recognising them is essential to saving lives.
What your eyes say
Yellow eyes
Dr. Paul Semugoma says yellow eyes should be taken seriously because they could be an indication of a liver disease as well as hepatitis.

Bukenya also warns that yellow eyes could be caused by anaemia and jaundice (staining of the skin and whites of the eyes, caused by high levels of bilirubin chemical in blood)

Double vision
Wayengera says double vision could be an indication of a tumour lying on the optic chaisma (the part of the brain where the optic nerves partially cross). One should, therefore, seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms that could point to a time bomb

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