With so many different health conditions out there that often have symptoms that mimic each other, it’s tough to know when those symptoms can wait for a visit with your family physician or when you should take a trip to the emergency room. There are, however, warning signs that shouldn’t go ignored. Even if the symptoms turn out to be the result of something minor, it’s better to be safe than sorry, as going to the emergency room could be a life saver. Below are some of the red flags that Dr. Ali Ghahary says patients need to watch out for:
1. Chest Pain. When you develop chest pain, the first thing that often comes to mind is a heart attack. However, there are a number of different reasons why you might experience chest pain. Chest pain can be caused by problems with your lungs (asthma, pleuritis, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism), muscles (strains), ribs (fractures), and even your nerves (shingles.) Depending on the cause, chest pain can be described as a feeling of pressure, dull or sharp, stabbing, burning and aching, and also shortness of breath. Nevertheless, because it can be so difficult to pinpoint the cause, it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored.
2. Numbness. Numbness can be caused by a number of different health conditions. For example, it’s one of the most common symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. However, it’s much more serious if that numbness occurs on one side of the body – such as the face, arm or leg, and could be an indicator that you’re having or have had a stroke.
3. Abdominal Pain. Sometimes abdominal pain can be caused by something we eat. In females, it can be the result of menstrual cramps. However, if the abdominal pain comes on for no reason or if you are vomiting, these are indicators that there could be something more serious going on. More common causes of abdominal pain include gastrointestinal problems, constipation, Crohn’s and Celiac disease, and urinary tract infections. Less common causes include gallbladder problems, pancreatic cancer, and appendicitis. Appendicitis generally requires hospitalization and surgery.
4. Fainting or Dizziness. Commonly, patients will feel faint or dizzy if they are dehydrated. This is especially common during warmer weather, as we tend to spend more time outdoors and in the sunshine, and may overexert ourselves without even realizing it, so keeping yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water is important. Lightheadedness can also occur if you move too fast as a result of a temporary drop in blood pressure. Fainting can also be caused by seizures. In the case of severe dehydration, you may require IV fluids to help rehydrate you. If a seizure occurs, an ER physician will most likely refer you to a neurologist to determine why the seizure happened, and may also send you for medical imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan.