November 2008 Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource Highlights 10 Symptoms Not To Ignore, Knee Replacements and Nonprescription Weight-Loss Pills
Not every ache and pain merits a quick trip to the doctor -- but some do. The November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource outlines 10 symptoms that should never be ignored.
1. Trouble seeing, speaking or moving
Numbness or paralysis on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, and blurred or decreased vision are classic signs of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), a ministroke that sometimes lasts only minutes. More atypical symptoms are fainting, shortness of breath or sudden feelings of facial pain, tiredness or a racing heart. Women may have the traditional stroke symptoms less often than men but also may be more likely than men to experience atypical symptoms first.
For any stroke symptoms, immediate emergency medical care is needed. Quick treatment for stroke can reduce the risk of brain damage or other complications.
2. A sudden excruciating headache
A headache that comes on like a thunderclap, with severe, excruciating pain could be caused by an aneurysm, bleeding in the brain, stroke, blood vessel inflammation, meningitis or a brain tumor. All require immediate medical attention. In addition, a headache that follows a head injury or is accompanied by fever, stiff neck, rash, confusion, seizure, double vision, weakness, numbness or speaking difficulties is reason to seek care.
3. Unexplained weight loss
Losing weight without trying can be cause for concern. A doctor's appointment is warranted for a loss of 5 percent of body weight in one month, or more than 10 percent in six to 12 months. Underlying medical conditions could be an overactive thyroid, liver disease, depression or
even some cancers.
4. Any breast change
A doctor should be consulted about a lump, nipple discharge or distortion, itching or skin changes (redness, scales, dimples or puckers), persistent breast pain or a change in breast size or shape.
5. Vaginal bleeding after menopause
Vaginal spotting or bleeding after menopause may be caused by changes in vaginal tissue, which can become thinner and more fragile as estrogen levels decrease. In some cases, however, postmenopausal bleeding can be a symptom of gynecological cancer. A medical evaluation is important.
6. Change in bowel habits
Mild diarrhea that lasts more than a week, constipation that lasts more than two weeks, or unexplained, sudden urges to have a bowel movement are reasons to consult a doctor. Also on the list are bloody diarrhea or stools that are black or tar colored. These symptoms could result from infection, medication side effects, a digestive disorder or colon cancer.
7. Feeling full after eating less
Feeling fuller than normal after eating less than usual could warn of gastrointestinal problems, ranging from indigestion caused by acid reflux to some cancers. If this feeling lasts for days or weeks, a physician should be consulted, especially if other symptoms are present such as nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or bloating, fever and chills or weight changes.
8. Persistent cough
A cough that lingers more than a month, is affecting sleep or brings up blood or sputum, is cause for a checkup. A chronic cough could be caused by asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a respiratory tract infection, chronic bronchitis or even lung cancer.
9. Sad or depressed mood
Feeling sad for weeks or months is a symptom of depression, a medical illness that's treatable. Other signs might include a loss of interest in normal activities, feeling hopeless, crying easily, trouble concentrating, unintentional weight loss and thoughts of wanting to die.
10. Persistent or high fever
A doctor should be consulted when a low-grade fever (100.4 to 103 F) persists for more than a week. Fever can indicate a urinary tract infection or more serious illnesses such as immune disorders or cancer. A sudden high fever, greater than 103 F, requires immediate evaluation.
Knee Replacements on the Upswing
ROCHESTER, Minn. -- The knee replacement business is booming. Media reports cite an expected 525 percent increase by 2030, according to the November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.
The newsletter describes reasons for this increase, new techniques for knee replacement, and who might benefit. Highlights include:
Caution Advised With Nonprescription Weight-Loss Pills
ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Over-the-counter weight-loss pills are no quick fix to melt away extra pounds. Many local drugstores sell diet pills, and even more choices are available on the Internet. But most diet pills haven't been proved safe or effective, and some are downright dangerous, according to a special report in the November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.
The report looks at popular weight-loss diets, eating plans and strategies, including diet pills.
Pills containing ephedra are touted to decrease appetite. But they can cause dangerous side effects, including heart attacks, seizures, strokes and sudden death. Ephedra, although banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), can be purchased online. Herbal supplements that contain the plant-derived chemical ephedrine also are available online and can cause similar health problems.
Other weight-loss pills can contain a cocktail of ingredients, including herbs, botanicals, vitamins, minerals, caffeine or laxatives. It's too often unknown how these ingredients, individually or in combination, could affect individuals. The risk of adverse reactions increases when diet pills are taken with other medications.
The FDA has approved the weight-loss drug Alli, a reduced-strength version of the prescription drug orlistat (Xenical). Alli is taken with meals and promotes weight loss by decreasing absorption of fat by the intestines. It's intended for use as part of a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet. When individuals don't reduce fat in the diet, diarrhea and gas with oily spotting can be significant side effects.
While diet pill claims may be tempting, weight loss only happens when more calories are burned than consumed.
Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9751, or visit http://www.bookstore.mayoclinic.com.
-- Knee replacements are increasing because people are living longer and, to remain active, want the procedure done sooner rather than later. -- An increasing number of people who have advanced arthritis -- which could be related to ever-rising rates of obesity -- likely is contributing to the demand for knee replacement. -- Today's artificial knees are significantly improved over early versions, which were little more than basic hinges. A surgeon can choose a design that's suited to the size and needs of each patient. -- Some artificial knee joints have been marketed specifically for women, but there's no clear evidence that a gender-specific knee implant is more effective. Many implants are manufactured in sizes that fit a woman's knee but aren't necessarily labeled a woman's implant. -- Several procedures are used to fix a damaged knee. Minimally invasive knee replacement is a newer type of total knee replacement, with different techniques to expose the joint. The incisions are smaller and recovery times may be quicker. -- More than 95 percent of people who have total knee replacement achieve significant pain relief, improved mobility and better overall quality of life.
SOURCE Mayo Clinic
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