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15 Health Symptoms Women Shouldn’t Ignore

by Carissa Andrews  -  September 24th, 2018

Photo Credit: by Florence K, Flickr.com
Photo Credit: by Florence K, Flickr.com

Women are notorious for pushing through pain and discomfort, even when all the signs point to something more serious. Unfortunately, this type of behavior can often cause more problems and even be fatal if left unchecked. Many life-threatening illnesses can come on as smaller, less noticeable symptoms before developing into more serious ones. If these are ignored, the chances of things becoming dire increase exponentially. Here are 15 health symptoms no woman should ignore, and if you’re lucky, they could save your life.

Painful Sex

Dyspareunia, or painful intercourse isn’t fun—nor is it something you should ignore. It can cause a strain on a relationship, as well as be a warning sign of some serious women’s health issues. While most of the time, painful sex could be as benign as lack of lubrication, it can be as dangerous as cancer. Here are some of the most typical causes of dyspareunia.

Injury to vulva or vagina – Injuries ranging from those caused by childbirth (tears or episiotomy) or any other injury made in the area of skin between the vaginal opening and the anus.

Fibroids – Uterine fibroids are benign lumps that grow inside the uterus and they can contribute to deep pain during sex.

Endometriosis – In the case of endometriosis, tissues that normally line the uterus grow outside the uterus, causing pressure and pain for women who have this condition.

Ectopic pregnancy – Also called a tubal pregnancy, this is where a fertilized egg begins to develop inside the fallopian tubes, rather than the uterus.

STIs – Sexually transmitted infections, such as genital warts, herpes, and others can cause painful and uncomfortable sex. If you’re unsure if you have an STI, do yourself a favor and get tested.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – With PID, tissues inside the pelvic area are inflamed, which can translate into deep pain when under the pressure of intercourse.

Infections in the cervix or vagina – Vaginal infections, typically called yeast infections, are very common in women. However, you can also have infections in the pelvis and cervix. All of which can cause painful intercourse.

UTIs – Urinary tract infections can inflame the urethra and make clitoral stimulation more painful than pleasurable.

Vaginal dryness – Very common in women who have gone through (or are going through) menopause, vaginal dryness can cause a much more uncomfortable sexual experience. Luckily, it’s typically easily remedied with lubricant and not usually a huge concern. Vagifem is an estrogen product we carry which may help in this area.

Vaginismus – A fairly common condition, this involves involuntary spasms of the vaginal muscles. For those who have been experiences painful intercourse or who have had traumatic sexual encounters in the past, this can sometimes be caused by the fear of being hurt.

Problems with the ovaries – Cysts on the ovaries are just one of the painful conditions that can contribute to painful sex.

Vulvodynia – This is chronic pain affecting all of the external sexual organs for a woman—the labia, clitoris, and vaginal open.

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Any form of abnormal bleeding, including bleeding after menopause, should be checked out by your doctor. Even a little bit of bleeding after menopause isn’t normal. If the irregular bleeding is accompanied by painful sex, it could be a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. See a doctor to have things checked out.

Bloody Stools or Urine

While it’s true that stool color and texture can change daily, depending on what you consume, black or bloody stools are not a good sign. Black or dark maroon-colored stools often suggest bleeding somewhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Fresh blood can be anything from hemorrhoids, to ulcers, to even cancer. Always get black or bloody stools checked out so you know what you’re dealing with. If you see blood in your urine, it’s usually the first sign of bladder or kidney cancer—so be sure to get in right away.

Nipple Discharge or Other Breast Changes

Any color discharge from the nipples when not pregnant or nursing should set off alarm bells. As should any changes in the shape of your breasts, or the development of lumps and bumps. They could all be signs of breast cancer.

Intense Headache

Any unexplained, intense headaches should be looked into right away. They can be a sign of stroke, a central nervous system infection, or even brain cancer or bleeding on the brain. If migraines aren’t in your medical history, seek immediate help and have yourself tested.

Unexplained Sudden Weight Gains or Losses

Any time your weight drops without actively trying to lose it, it’s a cause for concern. It can be one of the first signs of cancer and other serious conditions. In opposition, swelling, bloating, and other unexplained weight gains are also a sign to be concerned about various cancers. A pelvic exam, blood tests, as well as others can help determine the cause of either weight loss or gain.

Persistent Leg Pain on One Side

70% of blood clots that find their way into the lungs begin in the legs. It’s important to notice the signs of swelling and pain in one leg or the other and have the symptoms looked into right away.

Mouth Changes

Particularly important for women who smoke—you should be watching for yellow, gray, white or bright-red patches inside your mouth or on your lips. If you develop a sore in your mouth with a crater, you’ll want to be tested for oral cancer by your doctor or dentist.

Prolonged Coughing

Coughs caused by colds should clear themselves up within three to four weeks. However, if your cough lasts longer than this, you should consider a trip to the clinic—especially if you smoke or are short of breath. A cough is one of the most common symptoms of lung cancer. And if your coughs produce blood—visit a doctor right away.

Extreme Fatigue

There are a lot of conditions that can translate into fatigue. However, if your fatigue becomes chronic, or worse than normal, it’s best to visit your doctor to have things assessed. One of the more common sources of fatigue includes hypothyroidism – which basically means your thyroid becomes underactive. Luckily, correcting your thyroid levels can be as easy as a prescription of Synthroid by your doctor. Other conditions that cause fatigue include depression, liver failure, anemia, cancer, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, diabetes, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Unusual Hair Growth

If you see unusual hair growth in places you normally wouldn’t have hair, like the face or chest, this could be caused by elevated levels of androgens (male hormones). This could be a symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Chronic Stomach Issues

If your digestive system seems like its constantly out of whack, it might be time to be tested for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). It’s easy to ignore the abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhea or constipation caused by IBS as just a bad meal. However, IBS is treatable with diet, lifestyle, stress management, and prescription medications when all else fails.

Mole Changes

Any changes in a mole’s shape, size, or color—as well as the appearance of any new moles—can be a sign of skin cancer. Watch for hairs growing inside the mole as well and contact your doctor about any suspicious moles or skin changes. They can do a biopsy to set your mind at ease.

Increasing Shortness of Breath

Extreme shortness of breath, especially after light activity, can be an early warning sign of both a lung or heart problem. One of the more common heart conditions in women, before developing into a full-blown heart attack, is coronary ischemia. This produces lack of blood flow into the heart and is caused by a partial or complete blockage in your arteries—which, if left unchecked, can, and most likely will, cause a heart attack. Heart attacks cause 1 in 3 of all women’s deaths each year because women are less likely to see their signs and go in.

Sudden Vision Changes

Deteriorating vision is a sign of aging, but if it comes on suddenly, affects only one eye, creates sudden double vision—or causes you not to be able to see the center of what you’re looking at, it could be a sign of stroke. Be watchful of other symptoms such as numbness in one side of the body, difficulty speaking, or trouble with your balance. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms clumped together.

It’s easy to write off small annoyances and unusual pains as something that will go away on its own. However, it’s important to know when those signs could actually be pointing toward something more significant. Hopefully, these 15 signs and symptoms will help you keep better tabs on your body, so you know when to let things slide and when to seek medical attention.

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