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Common Ailments: When to Call the Doctor?

From age spots that could be cancerous to bad breath that could spell kidney trouble, we found expert answers to determine whether your health issue is minor, or needs medical attention.

“This pimple looks …weird.”

Don’t call if… you get a little acne every once in a while.

Call if… if your skin is severely inflamed, if you have painful fluid-filled lumps, if your skin is always flushed, or your blemishes don’t respond to over the counter treatment within three months. These symptoms could indicate the beginning of Rosacea, a skin condition. 

“All of a sudden, I’ve been noticing more spots on my skin.”

Don’t call if… you start getting dark, smooth freckles. These age spots are a natural sign of getting older.

Call if… a spot starts to tingle, itch, change size or color, or bleed. Some skin cancers, like melanoma, can look like age spots. 

“Lately, I’ve been feeling anxious.”

Don’t call if… you feel a little stress before big tests or presentations.

Call if… you’re anxious most of the time, can’t sleep or concentrate, turn to alcohol, drugs, or food to quell your anxiety, or feel you might harm yourself or others. Anxiety symptoms can mimic those of serious conditions such as hyperthyroidism, so it’s wise to discuss your symptoms with a doctor. 

“Even after I brush, my bad breath feels like a plague.”

Don’t call if… your breath smells funky once in a while, after an onion bagel or a garlic-heavy meal. Also watch for the middle of the afternoon, when bad breath is at its worst.

Call if… bad breath hangs on to you despite good oral hygiene. This can be a sign of intestinal problems, cancer, or lung or kidney problems. Find you have excessively sweet or fruity breath? That could be a sign of diabetes. 

“My burps are not only embarrassing, but constant.”

Don’t call if… you’ve unleashed a belch or two after a satisfying meal.

Call if… your belching is accompanied by another troublesome symptom, such as bloating, vomiting, a burning sensation in the chest, unexplained weight-loss, or changes in bowel movement. These can be symptoms of more serious problems. 

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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