We all have our aches and pains, and we all have accidents from time to time. Many of our problems can be dealt with at home and the general rule of thumb is, when in doubt, have it checked out. But what symptoms or health problems are generally a sign that you should see your doctor or go to an emergency room? Here are a few of the most common reasons to see your doctor.
There are several medical problems that could cause chest pain, many of which aren’t serious, such as pulling a muscle or experiencing occasional heartburn. But chest pain could also be the sign of a serious health problem such as a heart attack. Go to an emergency room immediately if you have chest pain that radiates to your jaw, down your left arm, or into your back, or if it’s accompanied by pressure on your chest, sweating and nausea.
Sudden shortness of breath combined with chest pain could be a sign of a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism (blood clot), or a collapsed lung. These can be fatal and if you experience these symptoms, seek emergency help right away. You should see your doctor for any type of shortness of breath though, as it could also be a sign of lung disease, an infection like pneumonia, or conditions such as lung cancer.
Sputum (phlegm) with blood is called hemoptysis. The sudden start of hemoptysis along with chest pain could be due to a pulmonary embolism. This is a medical emergency and you should call 9-1-1 and go to the emergency department immediately. But you should also see a doctor even if you only have blood-tinged sputum, particularly with other symptoms, such as fever, weight loss, and fatigue. It could be associated with infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis or HIV.
Sudden weakness on one side of your body, even if it’s only one part, like your face or just your arm or leg, can be a sign of a stroke or some other issue with your brain. Go to an emergency department or call for an ambulance. If you suspect a stroke, think FAST – does one side of your face droop (F), can you lift both arms (A), can you speak clearly (S) – and T is for time.