It might just be a bad cold, or it could be something worse. Your knee hurts when you walk, but not when you’re standing still. How do you know when it’s time to seek professional help?
For most of us, visiting the doctor is a no-brainer when it comes to making regular appointments or scheduling follow-ups for medical tests. You may not want to go, but you know you need to. So you make the appointment and go, no indecision required.
Things, however, start to get hazy when it comes time to determine whether a specific symptom or condition merits the same trip. Oftentimes, emotion and/or denial can interfere with the decision of whether to visit the doctor for pain or illness. You rationalize that you don’t want to waste their time, you assume it’ll go away or you figure you’ll be just fine.
But is that true? Here, we dive into a few common symptoms and explain when each one might merit a trip to the doctor.
Headache: If your severe headache is accompanied by light sensitivity and/or vomiting, you may have a migraine that can be treated with over-the-counter medication. Bad pain on one side of your head, but no nausea? Could be a cluster headache, which doesn’t respond as well to OTC meds.
Visit a doctor if you experience any of the following: the pain increases over time or interferes with daily activities, you need to take pain medication frequently and in large doses, you experience pain after hitting your head or the pain is associated with symptoms like muscle weakness or changes in speech or personality.
Common Cold: See a doctor if common cold symptoms last longer than 10 days or get progressively worse over time. Other red flags include a fever higher than 102 degrees, chest pain or pressure, persistent vomiting, dizziness, confusion or trouble breathing.
Especially Bad Cramps: They’re certainly never fun, but cramps should never be so bad that they cause you to call in sick to work or cancel your plans. If your menstrual cramps are getting worse over time, occur outside your period or happen alongside other symptoms like painful sex or constipation, you may have a condition called endometriosis. See a doctor to get checked out.
Knee Pain: We’re more naturally active during warmer months, so you might just be feeling the aftereffects of an especially long run. If you’re feeling a dull ache just below one or both kneecaps, the pain could be attributed to overuse. New pain can be treated with ice and rest, but see a doctor if it lasts longer than 2-3 weeks.
Unexplained Weight Loss: If you’re trying a new lifestyle plan and the weight comes off gradually, good for you! But if you’ve been going about your normal routine and noticed a significant loss (10 lbs. or more), schedule an appointment. Weight loss is a common indicator of certain cancers (pancreatic, stomach, esophageal, or lung cancers).
Tingling in Fingers or Toes: When you’re in a chilly pool or outside in cold weather, you might feel tingling in your fingers, hands, toes and feet. It’s usually perfectly normal; just put on a towel or some gloves and you’ll be fine. If it’s unrelated to temperature, chances are the tingling isn’t normal. Tingling you feel throughout your arm or leg may be a sign of a pinched nerve. It’s normally not life-threatening, but it is uncomfortable and should be treated.