10 body signals you better not ignore

Every time something goes wrong in the body, our body sends us signals. Here are some of the most common body signals and what they signify

woman with headacheWhenever there is any problem in our body, it gives us warning signals from an early stage. If we take immediate action, we can detect or prevent many major health complications.

Here we list 10 such body signals and the message they want to convey so that you are well-prepared the next time you experience them.

1. Fever

A burning sensation accompanied by a wave of chills and exhaustion is commonly known as fever. It sucks out all our energy and renders us completely helpless. But it is important to know that fever is an important part of the body’s defence against infection.

Fevers actually give a cue that there is something wrong with the body and thus it is a fight for the body and not against it. The normal body temperature is 98.6oC and anything above is termed as fever. Mild or short-term temperature elevations may be caused by minor infections. However, if the temperature is 1030 C or more, then it signals something serious—get it checked by a doctor immediately.

Even an inflammation or infection can trigger a fever. However, the fever can many times be beyond the defence mechanism of our body and could actually be a result of poisoning, drugs, heat exposure, injury to the brain, disease of the endocrine [hormonal] system or cancer.

2. Abdominal pain

The cramp-like feeling in the stomach that we often suffer could actually give a hint of another health problem. Usually the cause of the pain can be identified by the type and location of the pain.

This pain can range from being sharp and piercing to dull and nagging. It can be transient—just lasting for a few minutes—or a few hours and more. However, the intensity of the pain does not reflect the seriousness of the condition.

Usually the digestive system is where the pain originates. Some of the causes are serious conditions like appendicitis, bowel blockage or obstruction, chronic constipation, food allergy and poisoning, heartburn and indigestion, kidney stones, ulcers, and urinary tract infections.

3. Hiccups

You get a hiccup when your diaphragm [that aids smooth breathing] gets irritated and results in involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle. The diaphragm usually gets disturbed when you eat in a hurry, overeat, your stomach or throat is inflamed, or when you are too nervous.

Hiccups mostly last only for a few minutes. But if it gets prolonged for days then it sure is a concern. Most people are unaware that hiccups hint ailments like asthma, bronchitis and disorders of the bowel, kidney and liver. Although hiccups are usually benign, but it can be a cause of concern as sometimes pneumonia as well as heart attacks are accompanied by hiccups.

4. Headache

With our current hectic schedules, headaches have become a common occurrence. A headache can vary from being mild to very painful, depending on the cause. Sinusitis, hypertension, constipation, mental stress, acidity, sleeplessness, nervous weakness, anaemia, deficiency of oxygen in the blood all contribute to headaches.

On one hand, headaches can mean stress, tension and migraine. On the other hand, they can be related to the underlying structural problems in the head and arise due to bleeding in the brain, tumour, meningitis and encephalitis.

5. Oedema

Oedema is a condition where swelling occurs due to accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues under the skin. Reasons for development of oedema include physical inactivity, genes, surgery, high altitude, heat, burns, pregnancy, menstruation or use of certain medicines. It can also be caused by a number of diseases like kidney damage, heart failure, chronic lung, liver disease, thyroid diseases, allergies and diabetes and therefore in no way should be ignored.

6. Shortness of breath

We usually suffer from shortness of breath after some strenuous physical activity like climbing stairs or running. But if it occurs even in a relaxed condition, then it could pose a health risk.

Breathing difficulty of any kind is a potentially life-threatening emergency. Reasons include exercise, exertion, obesity, pregnancy, anxiety, smoking, depression, high altitude location, and respiratory infections.

Some diseases associated with shortness of breath include anxiety, lung, muscle and heart diseases and obstruction to airflow.

7. Chest pain

The pain in the chest that we dismiss as acidity could have serious health implications. It is a pressure on the chest that can move on to other parts of the body. Although there can be many possible causes of this pain, in the extreme case it could even be a heart attack.

Any organ or tissue in your chest cavity can be the source of pain, including the heart, lungs, oesophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons, or nerves. The best thing to do is to call for a doctor. However, driving to the hospital should be avoided.

8. Numbness and tingling

It is an abnormal sensation that can occur anywhere in the body. However, it is mostly seen in hands, feet, arms or legs. Numbness encompasses the harmless tingling feeling from feeling cold to a condition that needs immediate medical attention. Causes include being in a sedentary position for a long time, injury to a nerve, pressure on peripheral or spinal nerves, or lack of blood supply to that area.

Numbness or tingling might be the early signs of conditions like diabetes, sclerosis, migraine, stroke, and seizures. If there is weakness and paralysis accompanying the numbness, it is advised to go for a thorough check-up.

9. Vertigo

The spinning feeling that you experience when you suddenly get up from a position is termed as vertigo. You don’t necessarily have to be on a height to experience this feeling. Vertigo and dizziness are not the same, even though they are often used interchangeably. While all vertigo is dizziness, not all dizziness is vertigo.

Vertigo is not a disease, it is only a symptom of a broad range of disorders, diseases, and conditions. It usually occurs when there is a problem with the middle ear balance mechanisms, or with the brain, or with the nerve connections between the brain and the middle ear.

10. Common cold and influenza

A heavy head, sneezing every two minutes, blowing the constantly-running nose and the occasional yet earth-shattering cough are all symptoms of common cold that becomes embarrassing in the public more than anything else.

It has been found that more than 200 different types of viruses can cause the cold. Some of these symptoms can be related to viral infections or other serious kinds of flu.

Prakash Jiandani
Dr Prakash Jiandani is head of Intensive Care Unit [ICU] of Lilavati Hospital & Research Centre in Mumbai.


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