Have you ever noticed that something feels a bit off in your body? Maybe you don’t feel outright sick, but a sudden change in your habits or body catches you off guard. Unfortunately, these incidents may be more than simple quirks. Some serious conditions manifest in seemingly minor changes to your health.
Signs of a Deeper Problem
We know to look for sudden, severe symptoms that indicate something is very wrong. But not all symptoms are that blatant. Subtler changes and issues could be your body’s way of telling you to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for these potential red flags:
- Flashes of light in your vision
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Negative mental shifts
- Prolonged fever
- Feeling full after barely eating
- Changes in bathroom habits
1) Flashes of Light in Your Vision
No one has completely perfect eyesight, so the rare instance of blurriness or light sensitivity is nothing to worry about. However, repeated and unexplained flashes of light in your vision indicate a potentially serious problem. Patients living with migraines often see flashes of light during an episode. If there’s no sign of a migraine, however, those flashes could be an indicator that your retina is detaching, a condition that can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated quickly.
Pro Tip: Most minor flashes or “floaters” in the eye are harmless. However, sudden or severe cases of flashing indicate a serious problem. Seek medical help immediately.
2) Unexplained Weight Loss
If you’re eating a healthy diet and maintaining some level of physical activity, your weight should remain relatively consistent. Minor fluctuations up or down are normal. However, if you suddenly notice yourself losing significant amounts of weight for no identifiable reason, something is likely wrong. Your sudden drop in weight could be due to health problems such as:
- Malabsorption (failure to properly absorb nutrition)
- Liver disease
3) Shortness of Breath
If you experience sudden onslaughts of breathlessness with no identifiable cause (for instance, you were sitting down working instead of going for a run), that could be a sign of a serious underlying problem. Due to its nature, shortness of breath can quickly lead to a medical emergency. If you notice yourself struggling to breath despite not doing anything to cause it, get to the nearest ER immediately.
Your shortness of breath could be due to:
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Panic attacks
4) Negative Mental Shifts
Your mental health depends on a variety of factors, including your circumstances, your diet, your physical health, and any history of mental illness you may have. In certain cases, your mental health may begin to change without such a clear cause. Your attention span may decrease or your ability to focus or think clearly may suffer. Others may also notice you exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior. These symptoms could point to any number of potential problems, including:
- Medication side effects
- Onset of mental illness
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Problems with the brain
- Poor diet or nutrition
5) Prolonged Fever
Most fevers last only a day or two with proper care, and patients or doctors can often pinpoint a likely cause. For instance, you might find yourself with a mild fever after a coworker came to work with the flu. However, fevers that last longer than 3 days or reach a temperature of 103 or higher are a sign of something more serious than a simple infection. Call your doctor if you’re experiencing an unusually prolonged or high fever.
A prolonged fever could indicate an underlying problem such as:
- Cancerous growths
- Medication side effects
- Severe infection (such as a UTI)
6) Feeling Full After Barely Eating
Maybe you sit down to a meal and barely start to eat before you feel uncomfortably full. You may also experience weight loss, bloating, nausea, or vomiting. This condition is known as early satiety and can prevent you from consuming the amount of calories and nutrients your body requires. Underlying causes might include:
- Peptic ulcers
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Pancreatic cancer
7) Changes in Bathroom Habits
One unlikely source of information about your health is your bathroom habits. While defining “normal” bathroom habits is tricky, persistent problems such as regular constipation or the constant urge to visit the bathroom indicate an underlying problem. Some situations, such as bloody waste, indicate a potential emergency. Keep track of any changes to your normal circumstances and see a doctor if they last more than a couple days.
These changes in your restroom habits could point to health conditions such as:
- Bacterial infection (especially salmonella)
- Viral infection
- Colon cancer
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Listen to Your Body
The occasional case of nausea, fever, or mental fog is nothing to worry about–it’s simply part of being human. However, problems that linger and consistently interfere with your daily life should not be ignored. If your body is telling you something’s wrong, talk to your doctor as soon as possible and check for underlying conditions that need attention.