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Scary health symptoms: Warning signs to look out for

Scary health symptoms: Warning signs to look out for

From palpitations to twitching eyelids, Susannah Hickling sheds light on some scary health symptoms that might be keeping you up at night

A heart that goes bump in the night or eyelids that move by themselves? It might be Halloween but, almost always, there’s no need to be afraid.

Chest pain

For most people who are younger with no medical history to suggest cardiac problems or a higher risk—such as high blood pressure or diabetes—pain in the chest doesn’t usually indicate a heart attack. It could be caused by indigestion, muscle strain after exercise or anxiety. Or angina triggered by narrowing arteries could be provoking the pain. This needs medical attention but is rarely an emergency. 

"If your chest pain lasts more than 15 minutes, you need urgent medical help"

But if your chest pain lasts more than 15 minutes, spreads to other parts of your body such as your jaw, back or arms, comes with tightness of the chest or sweating, breathlessness or sickness, you need urgent medical help. 

Palpitations

Heart palpitations

If you are experiencing heart palpitations, try drinking plenty of fluids and cutting back on coffee

Many people fret about a fluttering, fast-beating or pounding heart. Often it’s caused by dehydration, stress or too much caffeine. Drink plenty of fluids, manage anxiety and cut back on coffee.  

When should you worry? If you are getting palpitations a lot, and you also get chest pain or are short of breath, see your doctor to eliminate a heart rhythm problem.

Skin tags

Fleshy growths that often look like warts and are usually connected by a stalk to your skin are almost never cancerous. They’re a common part of getting older and tend to be in areas of friction, like your neck or under your arms. If you’re worried, get them checked out.  

Twitching eye

The unpleasant sensation of a twitching eyelid is almost always harmless. In fact, it just means you—and in particular your eyes—are tired. Ease off the computer or phone screen. As ever, it the problem persists, see your doctor in the extremely unlikely event it could be a symptom of a neurological disorder. 

Floaters in your eye

Almost everyone gets black dots that pass in front of their vision as they get older. Have regular eye tests (every two years for most people). Meanwhile, if the dark shapes are accompanied by flashing lights, see an optometrist immediately to rule out a detached retina. 

Feeling faint when standing

Feeling faint

Stand up slowly to avoid dizziness

Dizziness when you get up quickly is called postural hypotension, caused by a drop in blood pressure when the blood goes to your legs as you stand. It’s very common, especially as you age, and nothing to worry about unless you actually pass out or fall or it’s happening more frequently. Remember to rise slowly. 

Ringing in your ears

A sudden ringing that goes away or a constant noise can both be signs of tinnitus. Again, it’s more likely when you get older and is often associated with hearing loss, certain medications or stress. 

"If your tinnitus beats in time with your pulse, see your GP"

Could it be something more serious? Occasionally, it might indicate high blood pressure or hardening arteries. It could be time for a health check. And, if your tinnitus beats in time with your pulse, see your GP. 

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