10 signs you should see a doctor

We’ve all been there, sitting at home or work, feeling terrible, wondering if you’d be wasting your time and money to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Too often, we decide to hang tough and simply end up letting a health condition go from bad to worse.

While the decision whether to seek medical help can often be a nuanced one, there really are some easy-to-remember guidelines that can help you decide when to seek medical care. Let me break them down for you.

1—A bad or persistent fever. Fevers are a sign your body is fighting off infection. Any fever 103 degrees or more should be addressed by a doctor immediately. More than three days of a low-grade fever (100 to 103 degrees) is also reason to be seen, as it may indicate a lingering infection.

2—A cold that takes a turn for the worse. Any cold that includes chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, or a loss of taste or smell is not normal, and could indicate other conditions, like whooping cough, pneumonia, severe bronchitis or even COVID-19. And anytime a cold lingers for more than two weeks, a doctor should determine whether the infection has worsened.

3Sudden weight loss. If you’ve lost more than 10 percent of your body weight over the last six months and you’re not obese, it might be time to contact your doctor. Sudden, unexplained weight loss can be an indicator for diabetes, thyroid problems, and many other serious conditions.

4–Sudden, severe chest, pelvic, or abdominal pain.  You should never ignore this kind of severe pain, as it can be an indicator of conditions like a heart attack, gallstones, appendicitis and more.

5—Bright flashes or interruptions to your vision. If you have migraines, you may be used to strange flashes or auras that accompany your headache. But if you are having vision interruptions at any other time, it could be a symptom of retinal detachment, or another neurological issue.

6—Brain fog, confusion, inability forming words, or unexplained mood swings. When you have interruptions in your ability to think or form words, disrupted sleep patterns, or slurred speech seek medical help immediately. It could be an indicator of anything from a stroke, to drug interactions, to the onset of mental health issues which need to be addressed.

7—Significant changes to your bowel or urination routine. Changes here can be indicators of changes in your health, so if you have blood in your urine, black or tarry stools, pain during elimination, prolonged diarrhea or constipation, check with your doctor.

8—Possible concussion. If you’ve recently hit your head and are experiencing confusion, mood swings, nausea or problems with your vision, a scan for concussion or other brain injuries is in order. Don’t hesitate to seek treatment in an emergency room.

9—Unexpected symptoms after a procedure or starting a new medicine. Side effects do sometimes happen after getting immunized, a surgical procedure, or starting another medicine. If you notice any strange symptoms like rashes, racing heartbeat, nausea/loss of appetite, or pain of any kind contact your doctor immediately.

10–Shortness of breath—High altitudes or obesity can cause you to feel breathless. But if you have a sudden onset of breathlessness that’s prolonged, it could be a symptom of heart or pulmonary issues that need attention.

Need a primary care physician? Visit UofLPhysicians.com or call 502-588-4343. Telehealth is also an option. Learn more.

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Christopher Combs, M.D.

Christopher Combs, M.D., is a board-certified internal medicine physician who graduated from the University of Louisville School of Medicine in 2005 and completed his Internal Medicine residency at the University of Louisville in 2008. He has been in practice for twelve years. His primary interest is preventative medicine with a focus on treating the patient as a whole, including both physical and mental well-being.

All posts by Christopher Combs, M.D.
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