6 Health Problems You're Ignoring (But Need to Get Checked Out!)

Economics test today, history paper due tomorrow and a few too many meetings tonight. Good thing you cancelled your appointment at the student clinic today. After all, your symptoms aren’t that bad. Right?
 
While painful menstrual cramps or that constant sleepy feeling may be convenient to ignore, it is more important now than ever to listen to your body. Phylis Craig, associate director of nursing at the University of Florida Student Health Care Center, offers her advice on when to brush off those pesky little problems, and when to get them checked.
 
Killer cramps

When Mother Nature delivers her monthly gift, collegiettes break out heating pads and Midol. “It’s not unusual for menstrual cramps to seem to get worse with this age group,” Craig said.
 
Most of the time cramps are no match for medication or yoga, which can shift the pelvis and create relief. But unbearable pain could signal a more serious condition such as pelvic inflammatory disease or uterine tumors, according to research by Medical News Today. And what about abdominal cramps that are unrelated to your menstrual cycle? Those could be signs of ovarian cysts, which cause pain and pressure as they enlarge.
 
One episode of severe cramps landed University of Mississippi freshman Crystal in the emergency room after she went completely blind for five minutes. Garner said her cramps cause her to sweat, vomit and nearly faint. She has discovered ways to manage the pain, such as laying on her stomach with a hot towel on her back, but the cramps still concern her.
 
Go to the doctor if: severe abdominal pain disrupts daily activities such as work or school, or if cramps strike when it’s not your time of the month. An ultrasound may help determine what’s wrong.

Headaches

We get it. With your crazy academic and social agendas, tension headaches are bound to happen. But how do you know when the root of these headaches is more serious than dehydration or stress?
 
Kristen, a McGill University sophomore, learned a lesson about listening to her body when she switched from vegetarianism to veganism and began experiencing headaches. “I battled them with extra-strength ibuprofen before ultimately realizing that headaches were my body’s way of telling me something was actually wrong,” Pye said. “I ultimately reverted to simply vegetarianism because with my busy lifestyle, I wasn’t able to properly maintain a nutritious vegan diet.”
 
Headaches may become worse with using contraception. Craig said the quick solution is usually a change in birth control. But if you’re experiencing severe headaches, or anything you would consider “the worst headache of your life,” medical help is a must. In the worst case, this may be a sign of a neurological disorder or tumor.
 
Go to the doctor if: headaches are persistent, cause visual distortion or feelings of weakness in the arms and face. If you’re experiencing excruciating pain, treat your headache as a medical emergency.

Problems down there

It’s normal to feel embarrassed or afraid when you can’t explain what’s happening in your private area, Craig said. But understanding your lower region helps you know when something just isn’t right, and when you should take action. Redness, bumps and sores may be signs of a sexually transmitted disease or a less serious vaginal infection.
 
The Center for Disease Control estimated that U.S. youth account for nearly half of the 19 million new sexually transmitted diseases that occur each year, although they only make up 25 percent of the sexually experienced population. If you want to get tested for these infections, visual samples and swabs are simple tests.
 
Go to the doctor if: you’re experiencing itching, burning, discoloration or any other physical differences in the pubic region.
 
Never-ending exhaustion

You hit the bars with friends, cram to finish assignments and then chug caffeine to stay awake in class. “It’s surprising to me how little sleep so many of our students get by on,” Craig said.
 
But if you’re getting your recommended six to eight hours of nightly shuteye and still feel tired, there may be another explanation for your lack of energy. Mononucleosis (“the kissing disease”) and issues with blood sugar levels are two of the most common causes of exhaustion. If you suspect either of these problems, have blood work done as soon as possible.
 
Two years ago, UF junior Alexandra realized she was unusually tired. When she returned home for the holiday break, she went to the doctor’s office for blood tests. “The results came back and said I was anemic. Even though I’m able to regulate it over the summer when I’m home, the problems come back by the end of every fall semester,” Alexandra said.
 
Go to the doctor if: your sleep patterns or your mood are affected by constant exhaustion. If the left side of your body is swollen, you may have an enlarged spleen, which is a sign of advanced Mono. An untreated case can result in death if the organ ruptures.
 
Irregular Periods

Severe diets, different exercise schedules and emotional factors can change your menstrual cycle. “Sometimes, if you’re worrying or stressing, it will disrupt the very delicate hormonal cycle,” Craig said.
 
Sudden changes could be signs of thyroid or hormonal problems though, which can be regulated with medicine. If you are sexually active and skipped a period, pregnancy is a possible answer. Craig said she performs blood work once a girl has missed four menstrual cycles if she is not pregnant. Her go-to solutions for controlling unpredictable periods are contraceptives, other hormone regulators or a combination of both.
 
Go to the doctor if: you are nervous because you have skipped a period (or two, or three). Listen to your body. Remember that an irregular cycle can lead to complications such as infertility if left untreated.

Loss of Appetite or Over Appetite

The Freshman 15 taught us that weight fluctuations are part of the college experience. But if a change in appetite is making you gain or shed pounds, you might need professional help.
 
Depression, high stress levels, low-grade kidney or urinary tract infections, stomach viruses and gastrointestinal tract problems can cause loss of appetite. Other physical problems that accompany the weight loss, such as nausea, are signs that it’s time to see a doctor. If you lose too much weight too soon, you risk malnutrition, hair loss, muscle loss and more.
 
Birth control, low activity levels and changes in social settings can cause an increase in appetite. Some people try to handle weight gain without a doctor’s help, vowing to exercise more and eat healthier. Is it worth the risk? Weight gain can cause lasting complications, such as high blood pressure and sleep apnea.
 
“It doesn’t have to be a set amount [of weight change],” Craig said. “I think if it’s worrying you, come in.”
 
Go to the doctor if:
you are concerned about any type of weight fluctuation, or if eating habits are disrupting your daily life. If you think the problem may be psychological, see a mental health counselor or therapist.
 
Trust your instincts

You are your body’s own best judge. Only you have the ability to know what you’re feeling and speak up when you realize the period cramps have become too painful, or the headaches too severe. Ignoring symptoms, as minor as they may be, can lead to bigger and lasting health problems.
 
It’s important to seek help from doctors, therapists and your school’s student clinic. Don’t be afraid to rely on professional because they can provide the guidance you need to solve your health problems – and give you a little peace of mind.
 
Photo Credits:
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