While seeing the doctor may not be on the top of your to-do list, it’s an important part of maintaining your physical, mental and spiritual health. An annual exam (or an appointment to discuss symptoms) can give you the opportunity to ask questions, discuss health issues or changes, and get important screening tests to diagnose — and sometimes prevent — serious health conditions.
In honor of Movember and bringing attention to men's health, Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian recently shared a first-person account of his recent cancer journey. After discovering that one of his testicles was swollen and inflamed, Adrian reached out to his doctor to get checked out. His testicular cancer diagnosis was a shock to the young athlete. "There is this huge stigma around testicular cancer," he wrote. "Men have this direct correlation equivocating their masculinity to having two testicles [...] I think that the way to break that down is to do exactly what we're doing right now and talking about it."
By being mindful of his body and its changes, Adrian was able to identify that something was wrong – and reach out for help.
If you’re tempted to “tough it out” or skip your next appointment, consider those symptoms as your body’s way of telling you something’s not quite right. Some symptoms may even point to a potentially serious underlying condition.
Changes in Bowel Habits
We all have days here and there when our digestion is out of whack. However, you should tell your doctor if you’re experiencing any bowel changes, such as bloody stools, cramping, chronic constipation or unexplained weight loss. These symptoms could be pointing to more problematic conditions.
Snoring so loudly and consistently that you keep yourself or your partner awake at night causes more than just poor-quality sleep (for both of you). Loud, excessive snoring is also a common signal of sleep apnea, a serious condition in which a person stops breathing 5 to 30 times each hour during sleep. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to major complications, including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Staying hydrated and drinking enough water each day is important to maintaining good health. However, feeling like you need to drink almost constantly could be a red flag that you have diabetes, infection, internal bleeding or organ failure.
Being tired all or most of the time makes functioning in day-to-day life difficult and doesn’t allow you to give your full self to your family, friends or career. What’s more, chronic fatigue is also a symptom of certain serious health conditions, including:
- Certain cancers or infections
- Congestive heart failure
- Kidney or liver disease
- Sleep disorder
- Thyroid problems
If you suffer from heartburn two or more times most weeks, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s important to let your doctor know if you believe you have GERD since it can lead to other problems, including ulcers and even cancer.
Lump on Your Testicle
Feeling a lump on your testicle can be alarming. If you didn’t suffer an injury to your testicle, one of the following conditions may be causing the lump:
- Enlarged vein
- Fluid buildup
- Inflamed or twisted testicle
- Testicular cancer
While many people associate a slipping memory with the natural aging process, memory loss can be a sign of a serious health condition. More than just the hassle of forgetting where you put your keys or parked your car, memory loss may signal addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, depression and more.
Odd Moles or Other Skin Problems
If you have a mole that’s quickly appeared, changes colors or has an irregular border, it’s important you get it checked out by your doctor right away since it could be a sign of skin cancer. You should also report to your doctor any unusually rough patches of skin or sores that won’t heal.
Pain While Urinating
Many men think trouble or pain when urinating is a normal sign of aging, but the truth is it’s never “okay.” In fact, it may signal an infection or something as serious as cancer. If you have trouble or pain when urinating, schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out other conditions, such as:
- Bladder cancer
- Bladder infection
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Inflammation of the testicles
- Kidney infection
- Kidney stones
- Reactive arthritis
- Renal cell cancer
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Pain while urinating isn’t the only troubling symptom men may experience in the bathroom. If you have trouble starting or maintaining a urine stream, you may have what’s known as urinary hesitancy. This condition has many potential causes, including:
- Bladder neck obstruction
- Inflamed prostate gland
- Kidney stones
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Transitional cell cancer
Though it’s common for eyesight to decline as you age, not all vision problems are normal. In fact, some may be a sign of a serious condition, such as stroke or a brain tumor. Tell your doctor if you’re experiencing blind spots, blurry vision, tunnel vision or see “halos” around lights.
Talk to Your Doctor About Worrisome Health Symptoms
It can be hard to know when to see a doctor. If you experience symptoms that interfere with your daily life or are troubling you, schedule an appointment with a primary care physician. Your doctor can perform a physical exam and order any necessary tests to get to the bottom of what’s causing your symptoms.
Make your health a priority for yourself, your family and your friends. After all, the sooner you receive timely treatment, the better your physical, mental and spiritual health will be.