Seniors, Don’t Ignore Your Physical Pain
Most of us accept that aches and pains are a normal part of aging. Arthritis, for example, is a very common condition among independent seniors that causes pain if it isn’t managed correctly. It’s one thing to sleep “wrong” one night and have a little neck pain for the first hour of the day, but it’s a whole other thing to have unusual symptoms that last or are recurring. Our recommendation is to not wave off any symptoms you’ve never experienced before. If you’re not sure what’s unusual or not, here are some symptoms all seniors need to be aware of, as they can be a sign of a serious health issue.
Pain and symptoms seniors should not ignore
- Shortness of breath. If you feel pressure in your chest, have difficulty catching your breath, tightness in your lungs, or dizziness, it’s nothing you should ignore. These can be symptoms of a partial or complete blockage in your coronary artery, which can cause a heart attack. For women, this combined with flu-like symptoms (even over a few days) can even be a sign of a heart attack in progress. It could also be a sign of asthma, fluid around the heart, pneumonia, fluid around the lungs, or lung disease, so have your doctor check you out as soon as possible.
- Post-menopausal bleeding. Having bleeding after menopause is a symptom that you should see your gynecologist about. It may not be anything to worry about, but it could also be a symptom of certain gynecological cancers.
- Blood in your stool. If you see traces of blood in your stool or your stool appears black, it’s time for a check-up. While some medications and supplements can change your stool color (for example, Pepto-Bismol can darken your stool), it’s best to have a doctor make sure it’s not blood. Blood in your stool can indicate colorectal cancer, bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract, an ulcer, hemorrhoids, or diverticulitis.
- Skin lesions. Risks of skin cancer increase as we age, so painful or unusual patches of skin or moles should be checked out. Often, these lesions appear as flat lesions, brown scar-like lesions, crusty lesions, or lesions with uneven shapes with blue, white, red, or dark brown specks. They may also appear as red nodules or waxy bumps. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early, so it’s worth the doctor’s visit.
- Painful breast tissue. If your breast tissue feels swollen, painful, or has a lump, it’s definitely time to see the doctor. These are common signs of breast cancer, which is treatable when detected early. Although it predominantly affects women, men can have breast cancer too, so don’t ignore your discomfort if you notice anything unusual. Although many lumps are benign, it’s always beneficial to have a doctor examine you.
- Lower back pain and fever. If you have pain around your hips on one or both sides, especially if you also have a fever or feel nauseous, it could be a sign of a kidney infection. These are treatable but can be life-threatening or cause lasting kidney damage if you don’t get the right treatment quickly, especially if you have diabetes. These symptoms can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection, a weakened immune system, or a urinary tract blockage.
- Calf or thigh pain. Are you feeling a throbbing or cramping pain in one of your calf or thigh muscles? This could be deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a clot in your leg. Other symptoms include reddened, hot-feeling skin where the pain is located and swollen veins. Seniors are at risk for DVT if they sit for a long time, have cancer or heart failure, have varicose veins, or are dehydrated. This is a potentially life-threatening health condition, so it’s important to get early treatment. This usually includes an anticoagulant to thin the blood, or a surgeon may have to remove the clot if it doesn’t respond to the medication.
- Pain in your big toe. Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals and it causes searing pain in joints, most commonly first occurring in the big toe. One of the most common risk factors is a diet of red meat, alcohol, and high-fructose corn syrup products, but it can happen to anyone. It’s very painful, but can be treated by your doctor with medication. Without treatment, you’re put at high risk for kidney stones and kidney failure, so it’s essential to get treatment.
Bristol Glen is a leading assisted living community in Sussex County, NJ. We offer a beautiful and welcoming space for seniors who need additional care and assistance to live a full and abundant life. Our long-term care team is compassionate, fully trained, and ready to assist seniors with their health, including managing dementia, diabetes, and other medical conditions.