Part 1 of 5


Many people know that serious bleeding, chest pain, and high fever warrant emergency medical care. But what about other symptoms, such as needing to urinate more often or straining to use the toilet? Can they be symptoms of a serious condition?

According to research published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, men tend to visit their doctor less frequently than women. They often skip annual checkups, ignore symptoms, or delay getting medical help when they need it. In some cases, those delays can be dangerous. Early diagnosis and treatment can often improve your outcomes for many health conditions.

It’s important to visit your doctor when you suspect something may be wrong. From unintended weight loss to changes in your bathroom habits, learn about nine symptoms that may be a sign of something serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t wait. Make an appointment with your doctor or visit the emergency department to get the care you need.

Part 2 of 5

Fitness and weight

Shortness of breath

Chest pain isn’t the only telltale sign of a heart attack. The symptoms of a heart attack vary from one person to another, but there may be early warning signs that you’re at risk, such as shortness of breath with exertion. For example, if you have a hard time catching your breath after an easy walk, it may be an early sign of coronary ischemia. This is a partial or complete blockage of an artery that carries blood to your heart. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience chest pain or shortness of breath. Go to the emergency room if you experience symptoms of a heart attack, such as:

  • pressure in your chest
  • tightness in your chest
  • extreme shortness of breath
  • dizziness

Unintended weight loss

Unless you’re actively trying to slim down, weight loss is often a cause for concern. Unexplained weight loss is one of the first signs of many diseases, including cancer. It’s important to see your doctor and let them know if you’ve recently lost weight unintentionally.

Part 3 of 5

Gastrointestinal (GI) and urinary symptoms

Bloody or black stools

The color of your stool can change from day to day, depending on the foods you eat and the medicines you take. For example, eating beets can cause your stool to be alarmingly red. Likewise, iron supplements and some diarrhea medications, such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), may temporarily turn your stool black or tarry colored.

Anything in the brown or green spectrum is normal. But if your stool is black, bloody, or pale, it may indicate that you have a problem. In some cases, this problem may be serious. Black stool may indicate bleeding in the upper GI tract. Maroon-colored or bloody stool indicate bleeding in the lower GI tract. Your doctor will probably check for signs of bleeding, hemorrhoids, or ulcers. Lightly colored stools may signal a problem with your liver or bile ducts.

If you notice unusual changes in the color of your stool, contact your doctor immediately.

Frequent urination

Frequent urination can be a sign of diabetes. Diabetes can cause you to urinate frequently because your kidneys have to work overtime to eliminate excess sugar from your bloodstream.

Prostate problems can also cause frequent urination. Other symptoms of prostate problems include decreased flow while you’re urinating, discomfort in the pelvic area, and blood in your urine or semen. Talk with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is common among older men, but you shouldn’t ignore the symptoms. They can be identical to the symptoms of other, more serious conditions.


Occasional constipation is normal. Most people experience it from time to time, and it often becomes more common after age 50. However, chronic constipation can be more troubling.

Chronic constipation can lead you to push very hard and strain when you’re trying to have a bowel movement. This raises your chance of developing hemorrhoids, which can cause bleeding and discomfort around your rectum.

Chronic constipation may also be a sign that something is stopping your stool from exiting properly. A tumor, polyp, or kink in your intestines may be blocking your colon. You may also have an underlying condition that’s causing abnormal colon motility. Early diagnosis of colon problems is important because of the risks of colon cancer.

Part 4 of 5

Other symptoms

Erectile dysfunction

Other than concerns regarding sexual performance, erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a sign of a more serious problem, such as cardiovascular disease. ED may also occur due to increased stress or depression, which your doctor can treat using therapy and medicine.

ED is a condition that doctors treat often. The sooner you address the problem, the sooner you can find a solution.

Frequent heartburn

Many people experience occasional heartburn after eating a greasy burger or a lot of pasta. But if you get heartburn after every meal, you may havegastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition is also commonly known as acid reflux. If you have acid reflux, stomach acid flows backward, up your esophagus. If you don’t get treatment for it, this stomach acid can erode the tissues of your esophagus and cause irritation or ulcers. In rare cases, chronic GERD can lead to cancer of the esophagus.

Symptoms of GERD can also mimic other rare but treatable problems of the esophagus, including sphincter dysfunction. In some cases, you may think you have heartburn when you’re experiencing heart problems.

See your doctor if you’ve had a long-standing issue with heartburn.

Excessive snoring

Chronic, loud snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. In this condition, the muscles in your throat relax and temporarily block your airway while you’re sleeping. This can cause breathing problems and disrupt your sleep patterns. These constant interruptions interrupt your sleep cycles and may leave you feeling sleepy or fatigued even after getting adequate hours of sleep.

Untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can sometimes contribute to cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea is a serious lung disease that can lead to heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms.

In some cases, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Breast mass

You may think breast cancer is a disease that only affects women, but that’s not true. About 2,600 American men are diagnosed with breast cancer per year, reports the American Cancer Society. Most of them are older men, between 60 and 70 years old.

See your doctor if you feel a lump or thickening of the tissue in your breast, or if your nipple darkens, turns red, or begins to have discharge. Early diagnosis and treatment are just as important for men with breast cancer as they are for women with the disease.

Part 5 of 5

Make an appointment

Take control of your health by making an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. They may be a natural sign of aging or a condition that’s easy to treat, but it’s important to rule out other more serious causes. In some cases, these symptoms may indicate that you have a serious medical condition that needs care. Recognizing and treating a problem early can often improve your chances of making a full recovery.