Men beware: Health warning signs not to ignore

Sometimes, pulling teeth feels easier than getting men into a doctor’s office. Blame it on the male ego, feeling invincible, indestructible, or just not wanting to know, men are likely ignoring signs or symptoms of potentially serious health issues. But even minor symptoms can be early warning signs of a bigger health problem down the road.

First, men should adopt an attitude of paying attention to their bodies. This would include any skin changes, any lumps or bumps, or pain in areas that weren’t there before.  It’s important for men to talk with their doctor when noticing concerning symptoms that are not getting better or going away. Getting the right diagnosis is the best step in warding off a health problem that could turn into serious complications.

Here are health warning signs men should take note of and to see their doctor for as soon as possible:

  • Changes in urinary habits

Frequent urination especially if getting up during the night, incontinence, a weak stream, or trouble starting a stream, could be symptoms of an enlarged prostate. It could also be signs of prostatitis, a urinary or bladder infection or even diabetes.  Pain or burning during urination could be caused by a bacterial infection or even a sign of prostate cancer. Seeing their doctor and getting the right diagnosis can prevent more serious issues of the kidneys, advanced diabetes, or prostate cancer.

  • Tingling, burning, or numbness in the extremities

Sensations of tingling, burning, or numbness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet are not only uncomfortable but also a cause for concern. While easy to ignore, these symptoms are not normal. Usually tingling, burning, or numbness is related to circulation problems and might indicate diabetes, anemia, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, stroke, and hypothyroidism.

Everyone experiences numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation on occasion. Usually, these temporary symptoms resolve within minutes. However, men who have no obvious cause for continuing any of these sensations should consult their doctor right away.

  • Shortness of breath

Dyspnea, better known as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, can be due to any number of things.  It could include intense exercise to a sudden temperature change, or when traveling through a change in altitude.

But having shortness of breath can also be a sign of something more serious like pneumonia, stress or anxiety, fluid buildup around the lungs or heart, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or even lung cancer.

Anytime a man is frequently finding it hard to breathe or is breathless waking up during the night, should make an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible. If the shortness of breath is sudden and severe and accompanied by chest pain, call 911.

  • Sweating

We all sweat but if sweating has become excessive, it could be caused by a variety of factors, including gaining excess weight, thyroid problems, diabetes, heart issues or even cancer. Men who are sweating more than usual do not need to call 911 but should instead consult with their doctor to rule out a serious underlying medical condition.

  • Skin changes

Performing a monthly full-body skin check is advisable for all men. This includes looking at the bottom of the feet, between toes, the buttocks, and the back. Any new or noticeable changes in a freckle or mole, such as a change in color, size, or that bleeds, need to be seen by a dermatologist. These could be signs of skin cancer or malignant melanoma which can be fatal. For men, this is especially true if they spend many hours outdoors and do not use sunscreen. If it is a skin cancer that’s found early, it can be treated and cured.

  • Blood in urine or stools

Besides a possible urinary tract or prostate gland infection, men noticing blood in their urine or stools is not normal and could be caused by a kidney stone, bladder cancer, hemorrhoids, or colon cancer. Reporting either of these symptoms to a doctor as soon as possible is critical.

  • Snoring excessively

Loud snoring could indicate a potentially serious problem.  The most likely cause is obstructive sleep apnea, which is linked to many health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  Other symptoms of sleep apnea include gasping for air during sleep, awakening with a dry mouth, waking up with a morning headache, difficulty staying asleep (insomnia), excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, difficulty paying attention while awake, and episodes of stopping breathing during sleep. Men with any of these symptoms should talk to their doctor to be evaluated with a sleep study test for sleep apnea. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight if overweight and using a CPAP machine to breathe at night can help treat this disorder.

  • Unexplained weight loss

Losing a significant amount of weight without trying can be a sign of a serious health problem. It could indicate diabetes, an overactive thyroid, or Crohn’s disease. Cancer is another possibility especially if the weight loss is 10 pounds or more. Dramatic weight loss is more likely seen with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung.

  • Chest pain

Crushing chest pain is usually associated with a warning sign of a heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American men and is the most common symptom of a heart attack.  The pain may be located in the middle of the left side of the chest and can last for several minutes. Some men will describe the pain as feeling pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the chest. Other men who suffer a heart attack will have had heartburn or indigestion as their warning sign. Even if it’s not a heart attack, chest pain should not be ignored. Crushing chest pain that may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sweating is dangerous so call 911 right away.

  • Chronic heartburn

Spicy dishes, fried foods, eating too fast, overeating, over-imbibing alcohol, and obesity have all been blamed for that uncomfortable and annoying burning sensation called heartburn. Noticed most often in the upper abdomen and often accompanied with a sour taste in the mouth caused by the reflux of stomach acid from the stomach, occasional heartburn is usually not a problem. But men having heartburn at least twice a week for long stretches at a time could indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Left untreated, GERD can damage the tissue lining the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain, and could lead to permanent damage of the esophagus and possibly even esophageal cancer.

  • Trouble ‘down there’

Erectile dysfunction (ED) or testicular changes can be unwelcomed warning signs of more serious health issues. ED is when a man has difficulty achieving and then maintaining an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.  It can also be a symptom of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Testicular changes such as a lump, redness or swelling in this area, maybe a sign of an injury or of testicular cancer. For either ED or testicular changes, men should see their doctor right away as both have good treatment options.

  • Feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, or irritability

Men are good at suppressing their true feelings and not discussing what’s really bothering them.  Eventually, these feelings come to a boil with warning signs in men displayed as fatigue, trouble sleeping, irritability, or a sense of hopelessness. These symptoms are also signs of depression.

Men are less likely than women to recognize, talk about, and seek treatment for depression. Yet it affects a large number of men. Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that may affect the ability to think, feel, and handle daily activities. Known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, a man must have symptoms for at least two weeks to be diagnosed as depression. Seeking help with a man’s family doctor who may refer him to a mental health professional. Treatment for depression should be personalized and may include cognitive-behavioral therapy or prescribing antidepressants helping men get their life back once again.

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