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Six Silent Signs Your Body May Be In Trouble

Unintentional weight loss sometimes can signal something wrong in the body.

Fever, sneezing, a rash are obvious signals something may be physically wrong. But the body also sends “silent” signs you may ignore - signs of something far more serious. Here are six of them, according to Dr. Sentayehu Kassa, lead staff physician at Parkland Hospital's Vickery Health Center. 

  1. Unintentional weight loss: “Especially if people are not dieting or on some form of exercise to lose weight. If they lose five percent of their body weight within six month to twelve months ... that could be a sign of a serious medical problem. For instance, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or pancreatic cancer can present with unintentional weight loss.”
  2. Bowel changes:  “Bowel habit changes or bowel movement changes, which can be constipation or diarrhea – again, colon cancer can present just by constipation, especially if it’s there for three or four weeks, it should be looked at.
  3. Changes in handwriting or even ability to smell: “Parkinson’s disease can present like that. Or if you have a problem with driving or changing gear or tremor shaking, of course. Or if you start to have a problem with smelling. It could be an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease. (Why smelling?) The nervous system is affected and that could lead to that.”
  4. Random outbursts of anger or Irritability: “Depression, we know the early symptoms: tiredness, sleep problems or crying easily. You know random outbursts of anger could be one of them (symptoms) and especially in men.”
  5. Forgetting names: “That’s one thing we blame on age, but that should be looked at because it could be a symptom of hyperthyroidism or low levels of thyroid hormones which could lead to brain fog, they call it. If it’s happening for several weeks, it should be checked. It’s just a simple blood work to check a thyroid level and it can be treated with medication. Thyroid can also present by cold feeling, sleep problems. Especially after a good night’s sleep, if you still feel tired or sleepy, that could indicate a low thyroid or underactive thyroid.”
  6. Frequent urination: “In young women, could be because of pregnancy. In anybody, it could be because of bladder infection or what we call urinary tract infection, which can be treated as well. It could be in men, 50 and older, an enlarged prostate. But it could very well be cause by type 2 diabetes because in diabetic patients, the sugar buildup in the system is high, so the kidney tries to flush out the glucose and people tend to go to the bathroom a lot. We really need to take this very seriously.”
Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.