As you get older, you are bound to experience aches and pains that are just part of the natural aging process. But there will also be warning signs and symptoms of much more serious senior health problems that you can’t afford to ignore.
You know your body better than anyone else, so when you feel something that doesn’t seem right or if you notice a new symptom that develops quickly instead of over a long period of time, that usually is an indication that something is amiss.
Here are some sudden and unusual senior health symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored. If you experience any of these, don’t wait to seek help.
Shortness of Breath
If you experience unusual pressure in your chest, tightness in your chest, shortness of breath or dizziness, it could indicate a pulmonary embolism, which is when a blood clot forms in your body’s veins and eventually gets stuck in your lung’s blood vessel. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, irregular heart rhythm, congestive heart failure and other types of heart disease are additional possibilities.
Sudden Difficulties or Confusion
If you suddenly experience speech or balance and coordination difficulties — such as slurred speech; difficulty finding the right words; or numbness or weakness in the face, hand or leg — you might be having a stroke. No matter how subtle the confusion, get to the doctor right away. With a stroke, you only have a window of two to three hours before there is irreversible brain damage.
If you notice blood where you don’t expect to — from vaginal bleeding after menopause to black or bloody stool to bloody vomit — you should see a doctor. Kidney stones, bladder or kidney infection, or cancer could cause blood to show up in your urine. Ulcers and colon cancer can cause rectal bleeding or bloody stools. Stomach, esophageal or lung cancer could result in bloody vomit.
Unexplained Weight Loss
If you lose more than 5 percent of your body weight in less than six months, it could be a sign of a senior health problem, such as an overactive thyroid, diabetes, depression, liver disease, cancer or gastrointestinal disorders that interfere with how the body absorbs nutrients.
Sudden Intense Headache
Severe head pain — unlike anything you’ve ever felt before — could signal that a blood vessel in your brain suddenly burst. It could also indicate cardiac cephalgia, meningitis or temporal arteritis.
Other senior health symptoms you should be mindful of include:
- Erectile dysfunction, which can be associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes;
- Constipation, which might signal a tumor, polyp or some other obstruction that is blocking your stool from properly exiting;
- Swollen or discolored breasts, which might be a sign of breast cancer;
- Skin lesions that don’t heal and that cause pain or ooze, which could be a sign of skin cancer;
- Flashes of light, which could signal detachment of your eye’s retina;
- Persistent or high fever, which may indicate a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, endocarditis or meningitis;
- Swelling in the legs, which can be caused by heart failure; and
- Sudden or severe abdominal pain, which could signal that an aortic aneurysm has ruptured.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should speak with a health care professional immediately, go to the emergency room or call 911. Don’t forget to bring with you a list of any medications you’re taking and any side effects you’re experiencing.