Sadly, getting sick is a fact of life. But some conditions can cause more long-term effects than others. It's important to know what symptoms to look out for - after all, symptoms are your body's way of telling you something is wrong, and messages from your body shouldn't be ignored.
Catching symptoms early can make all the difference when it comes to treatment. We've teamed up with stair lifts supplier Acorn Stairlifts to show you some of the signs to be aware of.
Arthritis: Stiffness and Inflammation
When the tissue in your joins breaks down, arthritis can set in. The result of this is inflammation, pain and restricted movement of the area of the body concerned — as well as the apparent weakness within the joints affected. Around 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis in the US, according to conservative estimates reported on by the Arthritis Foundation, with individuals of all ages affected.
There’s no cure for arthritis yet. However, various treatments are now available which can help to slow down the condition.
Someone suffering from arthritis might find their joints are stiff when they wake up, they may feel usually fatigued, or generally unwell. Be aware of stiffness in one or more of the body’s smaller joints too, and mild inflammation of the joints concerned. This inflammation may also cause surrounding tendons and ligaments to become unstable or deformed, meaning that the range of motion is decreased, while pain and inflammation of the joints may be accompanied by a low-grade fever.
Head to the Arthritis Foundation's website for further advice regarding the condition.
Breast Cancer: Signs to Look Out For
With 2018's estimates of new cases of invasive breast cancer standing at 266,120 and new non-invasive cases at 63,960, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. While it is most common in women, it’s not uncommon for men to be diagnosed with breast cancer too.
With early enough detection, breast cancer can be caught before it has a chance to spread further. Surgery is often the first type of treatment for the disease, followed by radiotherapy, chemotherapy or, in some instances, either biological or hormone treatments.
One of the more well-known signs of breast cancer to look out for is a lump or area of thicker tissue. It’s important to underline that many lumps around the breast will not be cancerous, but it’s wise to get any checked by a doctor if detected.
You should also look out for the following:
- Pain around the breasts
- One or both breasts changing in their shape or size
- Dimpling on the skin of the breasts
- Discharge from either nipple (which might be streaked with blood)
- A rash on or around the nipple
- The appearance of the nipple changing — perhaps becoming sunken into the breast
Any of the above can be a warning sign of breast cancer. Another potential sign of this disease is a lump or swelling in either of the armpits.
Unsure, or concerned? Check out the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Screening Guidelines for a raft of helpful advice.
Dementia: Confusion and Mood Change
A decline in brain function usually refers to some form of dementia. The conditions are often progressive but eventually severe. According to a report by BrainTest, there are at least five million people across the US who are currently living with a form of age-related dementia.
Presently, there’s no cure for dementia. However, the number of deaths from the condition would be halved if the onset of dementia was delayed by five years.
Dementia has a different effect on people. The common early symptoms to watch out for though include someone suffering from memory loss or having difficulty concentrating. A person may also find it difficult to carry out daily tasks that they are familiar with — getting confused when trying to sort out the correct change when shopping, for instance — and struggle to either follow a conversation or find the right word when speaking to someone. Look out for individuals being confused about the time and the place where they are too, as well as mood changes.
Also note certain symptoms relating to Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer’s Association has stated that this condition is the 6th leading cause of death across the entire United States. Symptoms related specifically to Alzheimer’s disease include individuals becoming confused when in environments they aren’t familiar with, having problems with their memory — they may regularly forget names, faces or events which have only recently occurred, for example — and repetitively asking questions. Other common symptoms include a person encountering increasing difficulty completing tasks or getting involved in activities which require planning or organization, as well as if they become more anxious or withdrawn.
Want to know more? There’s plenty of support available at The Alzheimer’s Association about what to do next.
Diabetes: Tiredness and Vision
Diabetes is when the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the US was estimated at 30.3 million as of 2015, with older members of society susceptible to developing the condition as their bodies change when they grow and age. To maintain good health, early diagnosis, treatment, and then effective control of diabetes are all vital. These steps will also reduce the risk of the body developing serious complications.
Extreme fatigue, sudden weight loss, thirst, and more trips to the toilet (particularly at night) can all be signs of diabetes. Also, take note if any cuts and wounds take much longer to heal, if blurred vision is experienced and if genital itching or thrush is encountered.
Some you know suffering these symptoms? The American Diabetes Association has guides on the treatment and care available throughout the US.
Osteoporosis: Fragile Fractures
Over time, osteoporosis causes the bones to weaken. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, around ten million Americans have osteoporosis, with another 44 million individuals having low bone density — an issue that places them at an increased risk.
Osteoporosis carries the following symptoms:
- Multiple osteoporotic fractures in the spine can cause the back to lose its normal curvature — the result being a stooped back developing and a loss of height being witnessed as the vertebral bones in the spin begin to weaken and collapse.
- Sudden or intense back pain being suffered without warning or from doing something small, such as bending over to tie a shoelace.
- Fractures being suffered after having what at first seemed like a minor incident, such as slipping on the pavement or even making a sudden movement.
Want to know more? The National Osteoporosis Foundation has this guide to treatment options for osteoporosis if you are worried that someone you know is suffering from this condition.
Prostate Cancer: Consider Toilet Habits
Prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer in terms of common cancers among American men, says The American Cancer Society. The organization estimates that in 2018 alone, there will be around 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer and around 29,430 deaths from the disease.
Immediate treatment is not always needed. A doctor may suggest either ‘active surveillance’ or ‘watchful waiting’ if the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms to appear, though some cases of the disease can be treated if spotted in the early stages — such as via radiotherapy (either standalone or alongside hormone therapy) or by surgically removing the prostate.
In the early stages, prostate cancer can be difficult to detect. This is due to the way the cancer grows. However, if the disease grows close to the urethra — the tube in a man’s body that he urinates through — initial symptoms will usually be seen. This is because the cancerous growth may press against the urethra and change the way that someone urinates. Possible changes to be aware of include if it becomes difficult to start urinating or empty the bladder, if there’s a weak flow when urinating or if it feels that the bladder has not properly emptied after urinating. Also look out for dribbling urine after urinating has finished, as well as if someone has the sudden urge to urinate or if they appear to urinate more often — especially during the night.
Changes in toilet habits don’t always mean a man has prostate cancer — it can be a sign of other health problems. No matter what though, it’s wise to see a doctor if any of the above changes are detected.
It’s quite common for prostate cancer not to begin close to the urethra though. However, should the cancer break out of the gland or spread to other parts of the body, signs which could indicate this has happened include pain in the hips, pelvis or back, blood being evident in either semen or urine, weight loss that can’t be explained, and issues with either getting or keeping an erection.
Are you worried for someone in regards to prostate cancer? The American Cancer Society has advice on various tests available for prostate cancer if you’re worried that you may have prostate cancer or have developed another issue with your prostate gland.
Of course, there are many other conditions and symptoms to look out for beyond those outlined in this guide. However, hopefully the advice provided will help to keep loved ones healthy and also highlight how spotting signs and symptoms early can prove very beneficial.