Saturday, 12 September 2015

Not all body alerts are risky to health – Experts

Why single elevated blood-pressure reading isn’t worrisome

Medical experts have observed that it is not all body alerts are risky to health. The human body is constantly changing in response to an array of factors: stress, medications, what you eat, how you sleep. This is definitely true of blood pressure, particularly the top number in the blood-pressure measurement, the systolic blood pressure. In fact, there is a phenomenon called ‘white coat hypertension,’ in which blood pressure goes up when the measurement is taken at the doctor’s office because you’re nervous about having it checked. A friend of mine was recently in the hospital, hooked up to a display that checked his blood pressure every 15 minutes, with tremendous variation. It nearly drove him crazy.

When to worry about blood pressure
If you get a high reading several times in a month, talk to your doctor; untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke. Extremely elevated blood pressure (systolic pressure over 180 or diastolic pressure over 110) is a medical emergency.

Blood-test result that’s a little high or low
Even if the lab report says the number is out of normal range, that value is most likely normal for you. Someone could have a slightly low platelet count throughout his lifetime, but that does not mean he had bleeding problems (platelets help with clot formation). No problem, no disease. Part of the reason a new doctor does routine blood work when you are feeling good is so that she can learn what is typical for you.

Low blood pressure
Low blood pressure puts less stress on your organs, so it is generally considered a good thing. Experts advise that you should not be worried about low blood pressure. 
When to worry: If low blood pressure leaves you feeling lightheaded or faint, or if you feel your heart fluttering, then you need to see a doctor.

Few days of nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
People want to know if it is food poisoning or a virus, but in terms of healing, it doesn’t really matter. If there is no intense abdominal pain, high fever or blood in your stool, your body will take care of it. The important thing is not to get dehydrated. When to worry about vomiting: If you feel faint or are vomiting up blood, get to the doctor.

Painless lumps
As bodies age, they develop a wide variety of lumps. The overwhelming majority of them are not cancerous. The causes of lumps are so numerous that it is impossible to give a complete list here, but they range from benign cysts to fatty deposits under the skin (called lipomas). Make sure you show them to your doctor on your next visit, but try not to be too alarmed.

When to worry about lumps
Some lumps should be evaluated as soon as possible. Breast lumps should never be ignored. Lumps that are tender, warm and red could be from underlying infections that need treatment. Hard or fast-growing lumps should also be seen promptly.

Bleeding
In terms of species survival, it is probably good that the sight of blood provokes panic. But most of us panic more than we should. Cuts on certain parts of the body, like the scalp, can bleed profusely, but that should not necessarily cause alarm. Put pressure on a cut for five to 10 minutes to see if you can get it to stop bleeding. If you can’t, or if the two sides of the slice seem widely separated, you may need stitches to help healing.

When to worry about bleeding: If you are not sure whether a cut needs stitches, it’s not wise to wait and see. Wounds need to be stitched within 24 hours or the risk of infection rises markedly.

Little rectal bleeding
Many health experts complain of embarrassing calls concerning blood on toilet paper or in the bowl. It is almost always related to hemorrhoids or small cuts in the rectal area rather than a sign of an ulcer or cancer. Try taking a stool softener, or eat more fruits and vegetables to do the same trick. 

When to worry about rectal bleeding: If the bleeding persists for more than two or three days or is painful, head to the doctor.

Sharp, localized chest pain
Many often associate the chest with the heart, but there are lungs, bones, muscles and digestive organs in there, too. Sometimes chest pain that’s worse with a cough, a deep breath or movements of the torso, like lifting or twisting, can be caused by strains or irritation in the small muscles and ligaments that surround the ribs. These can be due to injury or a viral infection and generally resolve themselves; a nonsteroidal medicine like ibuprofen may help in the meantime.

When to worry about chest pain: If you are also short of breath or have a fever, see a doctor. In that case, sharp, localized pain could be a sign of a lung problem. And if you have any doubt about whether you should get medical help for chest pain, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Rashes
Minor rashes are part of life, and no cause will be found for many of them. Use common sense to treat symptoms—taking an antihistamine or applying hydrocortisone cream can help with itching, for example—and think about new products or foods you’ve come in contact with so you can try to avoid a recurrence. Have you used any new shampoos? Is the rash only on the legs (in that case, think plant allergy)? Only on areas exposed to the sun? Only on areas under clothing?

When to worry about rashes: If an itchy rash comes on suddenly while taking a medicine (particularly an antibiotic) or eating a new food, seek immediate medical attention, especially if you also have shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing. It could be the start of a life-threatening allergic reaction. Also, if the itching is unbearable despite over-the-counter treatment, you might need something stronger, like a short course of steroids.

Here are few things that should always prompt an urgent medical visit: chest pain or pressure that you cannot localise with one finger and comes back every time you exercise; the worst headache of your life; intense abdominal pain, particularly if accompanied by fever; and shortness of breath severe enough that you have trouble finishing a sentence. Experts observed that this list is not complete, but these symptoms should set off immediate alarms.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 5, 2015.

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