30 Subtle Signs of Serious Health Issues Hiding in Plain Sight

We all have good and bad days, and sometimes, our bodies seem to be in the worst possible shape. However, it’s our duty to spot what our bodies are trying to tell us. Our bodies are constantly signaling things. From mild signs and symptoms to severe ones, many serious health issues make their presence known by ‘bothering’ your body.

Stress, heart disease, and even cancer can be detected if you know where and how to look. In fact, some signs hide in plain sight, but they are often overlooked or, even worse, ignored. Are you doing the same thing? Doctors warn us to pay more attention to our bodies. If a sign of a serious health disease is spotted in the early stages, it could make a big difference (it could even save your life).

As soon as you notice any unusual changes in your body, contact your doctor. Sudden fatigue, unexplained headaches, or anything you think that doesn’t have a clear explanation could mean something more, so do not ignore them. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at 30 subtle signs of serious health issues hiding in plain sight!

Serious Health Issue
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1. Panic attacks and stress

Many factors could lead to panic attacks and stress. From unpaid taxes to someone’s death, the reasons range from A to Z. In fact, according to Mental Health America, more than 55% of Americans with serious health issues like panic attacks don’t get treatment.

Depriving your mind and body of treatment could eventually lead to heart problems. There’s a strong connection between someone’s mental health and heart health. For instance, stress can cause a type of heart attack called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a.k.a. ‘broken heart syndrome.’

Carolyn Dean, MD, a heart health specialist, and author says that even if chest pain is the number one symptom of coronary artery disease, it doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Anxiety, stress, and panic are others that indeed are less obvious, but all of them could signal a heart-related issue.

2. Shortness of breath

Once in a while, we all experience shortness of breath. Whether it is from an intense physical workout or an unpleasant event, shortness of breath is usually common and quite harmless. However, if it raises from virtually no obvious reason at all, it’s time to ask yourself a serious and pretty scary question: ‘Do I have a serious health issue?’

According to a practicing physician specializing in advanced heart failure, Andrew T. Darlington, who works at the Piedmont Heart Institute, one of the most common symptoms associated with heart failure is shortness of breath. So, how’s your ticker?

3. Frequent heartburn

Another seemingly innocent sign of a serious health issue is frequent heartburn. Sadly, heartburn is not seen as a serious health problem by most of us. Persistent heartburn should most definitely not be ignored since it could signal an underlying condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

People who have this condition are at a greater risk of developing esophageal cancer, so if you experience heartburn, do not hesitate, call your doctor immediately. The sooner your doctor detects the condition, the better.

4. Chest pain

This type of pain has a wide range of causes. From heart-related medical reasons to mental ones, chest pain is associated with numerous conditions. Indeed, some are pretty minor, such as the type of chest pain caused by indigestion, but others can signal a heart attack.

Heart attacks strike rapidly and most of them start with discomfort felt in the chest, as highlighted by The American Heart Association. No matter the root cause of your chest pain, do not ignore it. If you act immediately, a simple phone call could save your life from this serious health issue.

5. Hiccups

Sometimes hiccups are funny, but clearly not for the person who experiences them. Hiccups are basically contractions of the diaphragm, and in some cases, they could be symptoms of a stroke. According to cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, hiccups that signal a stroke are often experienced by women.

The signs and symptoms of this serious health issue in women are more subtle in males; however, don’t panic if you experience hiccups alone. It should concern you when they are accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, facial pain, and feelings of general weakness.

6. Persistent headaches

Did you know that more than 40 million American adults live with migraine disease or a form of headache disorder? If you’re not one of them, you know for sure at least one friend or relative who deals with constant headaches. In fact, headache is actually the most common type of pain.

Unfortunately, people tend to ignore it, saying that a pain reliever will do the trick eventually, and in most cases, it does, but what happens when you simply can not get rid of your headaches? Always striking when you least expect them… 

Well, go to your doctor! Headaches could mean so much more than hours spent in front of your computer. They are also symptoms of a serious health issue called a stroke. According to recent research, persistent headaches, especially if accompanied by nausea, visual changes, and vomiting, could signal an impending stroke.

7. Or severe headaches

Headaches are of all types. From migraines to exertional and cluster headaches, each of them has different symptoms. For instance, an intense headache could be a sign of an infection like meningitis. Almost all meningitis patients experience severe headaches.

But don’t rush diagnosing yourself with this serious health issue using our friend Google. Doctors say that, in general, headaches associated with meningitis are also accompanied by a high fever. These two symptoms require medical attention. If meningitis doesn’t get the medical attention it needs, it could lead to permanent neurological damage; it could be fatal in some cases.

8. A stiff neck

Neck pain has many root causes. Injury, muscle strain, and even heart attack could be behind your neck pain. Take this serious health issue seriously as soon as over-the-counter meds can not fulfill their purpose because extreme neck pain could also be a sign of meningitis. Since we’ve already mentioned that meningitis can be fatal, there’s no need to point out calling your doctor.

9. Clumsiness

We are not referring to those who are naturally more prone to stumbles and spilled cups of coffee on their devices, but to people who may have an underlying serious health issue like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Anthony Kouri, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Toledo Medical Center, says that clumsiness is actually a sign of this disease. He added that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive nervous system disease that damages motor neuron cells, leading to disability and sometimes death.

Bumping into things or being clumsy are the early symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s disease, so if you find yourself more stumbled than usual, talk to your doctor, especially if you’re also experiencing muscle cramps.

10. Redness on your legs or arms

If you spot a red area on your arm or leg, Kouri says you may want to visit your doctor. This sign could mean necrotizing fasciitis, a pretty rare bacterial infection that damages your outer layer, the fat beneath it, as well as the fascia overlying the muscle.

In the beginning, the area may look like a bruise or a small cut, but if it has no reason, call your doctor. Also, it’s important to know that several serious health issues have the exact same signs as necrotizing fasciitis in its early stages, but they aren’t as deadly as this one.

11. Pigmentation of the palms

Addison’s disease is often associated with pigmentation of the palms. Also known as adrenal insufficiency, this disease is quite uncommon, and it shows up when your body is unable to produce enough of several hormones.

In other words, when your adrenal glands produce way too little cortisol and aldosterone, you may be diagnosed with Addison’s disease. It affects people of all ages and both sexes, and when left untreated (taking certain hormones to replace the missing ones is the treatment for Addison’s disease) is could be fatal.

People who have this serious health issue may also experience extreme fatigue, hair loss, nausea, salt craving, weight loss, irritability, muscle pain, and depression.

12. Double vision

A board-certified oculoplastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California named Christopher Zoumalan says that sudden double vision, as well as droopy eyelids, could be signs of a brain aneurysm. A brain aneurysm is basically a bulge in a blood vessel found, of course, in the brain. In some cases, the blood vessel can even leak or rupture, leading to uncontrolled bleeding in the brain, a.k.a. hemorrhagic stroke.

So, if your vision plays tricks on you, you should go for a medical check-up as soon as possible to ensure you don’t have a serious health issue.

13. Coughing

At this point, there’s no need to mention that coughing is one of COVID-19 signs and symptoms. However, we do want to say that coughing could also signal a serious lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is quite difficult to detect in its early stages. As a matter of fact, coughing, pressure in the chest, and shortness of breath are actually the most common signs of this serious health issue. Maybe that’s why COPD is often detected when it’s too late.

We blame smoking for coughing, physical activity for our shortness of breath, and fast-food for discomfort in the chest, but we never think of COPD when we experience them. Unexplained coughing is and should always be a medical concern. Schedule an appointment now if you experience all COPD signs and symptoms.

14. Wheezing

Are you hearing a shrill whistle every single time you breathe? Although wheezing is a result of allergies and asthma most times, you shouldn’t neglect the more serious reasons that hide just around the corner. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wheezing can also be a sign of a serious health issue: lung cancer. In fact, wheezing could signal COPD and heart failure as well.

Serious Health Issue
Photo by Bannasak Krodkeaw at Shutterstock

15. Abdominal pain

Unexplained abdominal pain, especially a severe one, could be a sign of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. This serious health issue refers to an enlarged area situated in the lower part of the aorta, the major vessel that’s responsible for supplying blood in the body.

Long-term smokers are more prone to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm. However, it can happen to anyone. In 2014 alone, this condition was responsible for almost 10,000 deaths in our country, so you better not ignore its signs.

16. Small red bumps or pimples

We all have skin issues, but if redness, bumps, or pimples don’t go away, you may have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a type of Staphylococcus bacteria that’s really hard to treat, especially when it affects the skin.

The worst part? The signs of this serious health issue are not red flags for anyone. Small red bumps appear on the skin when the infection is in its early stages. If left untreated, the infection could migrate to important organs, being fatal in certain cases.

Always check your marks, bumps, or pimples! If something doesn’t seem right, talk to your doctor.

17. Extreme tiredness

Fatigue or extreme tiredness is another symptom of several serious health issues that hide in plain sight. When we are tired, there’s a ton of things to blame. From an exhausting day at the office to intense physical activity, tiredness shows up almost every single day in someone’s life.

However, constant fatigue (even after you’ve slept for hours) is a symptom of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. If your tiredness doesn’t seem to go away on its own, contact your doctor; maybe it’s more to it than it feels.

18. Frequent urination

The bathroom is always on your mind when you’re compelled to leave the house? Well, frequent urination is definitely a serious health issue, and everyone should address their doctors as soon as they experience this symptom.

Why? Because the seventh leading cause of death in our country is diabetes, and guess what, frequent urination is often a common symptom of this disease. When ignored, diabetes can lead to many health issues, including problems with kidneys, blood vessels, nerves, and infections.

19. Bad breath

Halitosis is for sure something unpleasant and embarrassing, especially when you’re about to kiss the love of your life. A romantic dinner could not see the light at the end of the tunnel if you’re dealing with bad breath, and that’s not the only reason to be sad.

A double-board-certified dentist in Los Angeles, California named Rhonda Kalasho says that bad breath could signal serious health issue going on. Liver disease, diabetes, and kidney disease are some of them. If the unpleasant smell doesn’t go away after brushing and flossing, visit your dentist or/and your doctor.

20. Metallic taste in your mouth

Another scary sign of a serious health issue that hides in plain sight is a metallic taste in your mouth. This type of taste is often associated with kidney disease. According to the CDC, more than 90% of American adults with kidney disease don’t realize they have the disease.

This is probably because its symptoms are far from obvious. George Aronoff, MD, vice president of clinical affairs at DaVita Kidney Care, says that kidney disease symptoms are often overlooked because they are way too subtle.

Ammonia breath, a.k.a. metallic taste in the mouth, is one of its signs; however, things could get mixed up since this symptom is also linked to sinus infections, urinary tract infections, too much protein consumption, and dehydration.

21. Swelling

Swelling is another symptom related to improper kidney function. When they aren’t working as they should, your kidneys can’t remove the water excess from your body, causing the fluids to become unwanted guests in the tissues.

Therefore, swelling of ankles, face, feet, or hands are also signs of kidney disease. As soon as you discover any swelling issues, contact your doctor to rule out a potentially serious health issue.

22. Frank’s sign

Go grab a mirror and check your earlobe. What do you see? Is a crease on it? Frank’s sign, namely the crease that forms on someone’s earlobe is pretty uncommon, but if you do spot something, there’s certainly a solid reason to visit your doctor ASAP.

Frank’s sign is associated with a few serious health issues like coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral vascular disease, according to Edna Ma, MD, a board-certified anesthesiologist in Los Angeles, California.

23. New marks on your skin

For people with freckles and moles may be hard to spot new marks on their skin, but it doesn’t mean they should just give up. Michelle Lee, MD, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California, says that new marks on the skin could translate to melanoma, a rising cause of death in our country.

The ABCD’s signs of this serious health issue are the following:

  • Asymmetric border
  • Border edge isn’t smooth
  • Color is uneven
  • Diameter is larger than a pencil eraser

If detected in the early stages, melanomas are treatable and curable, but, unfortunately, in some cases, too late is too late, and that’s also the case here.

24. Night sweats

Having a plethora of reasons, night sweats are something all of us experience from time to time. However, if the room temperature is fine and your night sweats seem to have no reason at all, they may be life-threatening.

Jack Springer, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New Hyde Park, New York, says that night sweats could also be a sign of certain types of serious health issues such as leukemia and lymphoma.

25. Bruising or bleeding easily

Not all of us are created equal… Remember how you bruised more easily than your neighbor when you were kids? That’s called Mother Nature, and it has nothing to do with what we are about to discuss.

Bruises that appear out of nothing could signal a serious health issue called leukemia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, most leukemia patients are always full of bruises, and some of them may even bleed from their noses and gums. See a doctor immediately if it happens to you too!

26. Difficulty swallowing

If you have a common cold, difficulty swallowing is pretty obvious to occur but if you’re perfectly fine, it could mean that something really serious is going on. According to The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, difficulty swallowing is a sign of esophageal cancer.

Seek medical attention if you experience difficulty swallowing for apparently no reason. Even if it’s just a little discomfort, don’t ignore this serious health issue.

27. Unexplained weight loss

If you’re not on a weight-loss diet, but you’re still shedding pounds, you’re not lucky. Unintended and unexplained weight loss is definitely a cause of a serious health issue. As The American Cancer Society noted, weight loss is one of the seemingly innocent signs of cancer. Especially when referring to lung, pancreas, stomach, and esophagus cancers.

28. Bloating

Certain foods such as beans can make us bloated, but if you can’t blame it on a meal, experiencing unexplained bloating on a regular basis could translate to stomach, colon, pancreatic, and ovarian cancers.

However, don’t rush into making any medical assumptions about serious health issues. Just call your doctor instead if your bloating doesn’t seem to go away.

Serious Health Issue
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29. Gastrointestinal issues

Our digestive system is linked to many serious health issues, including changes in our moods. Taking proper care of it could make a huge difference between you ending up in the ER or not. Gastrointestinal issues are also linked to colon cancer. Sadly, colon cancer is a type of cancer that has way too few signs and symptoms.

Colon cancer is often diagnosed in advanced stages because its symptoms are mild. If you think that something’s wrong with your bowel movements, visit your doctor to make sure that you’re not at risk of developing colon cancer.

30. Facial puffiness

This sign is pretty common, especially if you tend to consume salty foods regularly. Alcohol consumption can be a factor too. However, if that puffiness is more pronounced than usual, go to your doctor’s office ASAP.

According to recent research, puffiness in the face could be a sign of a tumor. How so? Tumors actually restrict blood flow in the area, as a result, puffiness shows up. Don’t ignore this sign, as innocent and harmless as it seems, it could mean tumor development.

If you experience any of these serious health issues, you should make an appointment to see your doctor immediately. And if you found this article useful, we also recommend reading: 9 Strange Eye Symptoms You Should NEVER Ignore After 50


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