Updated 10 February 2016

10 common health warnings you should not ignore

There may be more to your random bouts of tiredness than you think; it could be your body's way of alerting you to underlying health issues.

A July 2015 survey by a pharma group showed that a whopping 80% of South Africans carry on as normal and even go to work when they are sick.

Health24's CyberDoc, Dr Heidi van Deventer agrees saying that many patients only turn to their doctors when something serious has gone wrong, or when they feel really ill.

"Many ignore subtle symptoms year in and year out, but going to the doctor earlier could have caught the underlying disease and treated it right away. Early treatment often leads to better outcomes," she says.

Ask CyberDoc your pressing health questions

CyberDoc's 10 most commonly ignored symptoms:

1. Your urine is dark yellow/orange/brown in colour: Your kidneys may be in danger.

What to do? Bear in mind that vitamins or certain other medications can cause your urine to become dark in colour. Drink lots of water, and if the urine colour does not improve, rather have a urine dipstick test done. These can be done at major pharmacies or at your GP. The test will indicate if you are at risk of kidney disease.
2. You’re tired all the time: Your thyroid may be a problem or you could have anaemia.

What to do? If you don't see any improvement after getting enough sleep and taking your vitamins, you need to head to your GP for a blood test to check for thyroid problems or anaemia.

3. Your sclera (the white part of your eyes) are yellow: This may be an indication of hepatitis or liver problems.

What to do? If you notice that you have yellow eyes, even if you don't experience any other symptoms, it's a good idea to have blood tests done to check your liver function. This can be done by your GP.

4. You get headaches (mild or severe) or blurry/double vision: This could be a sign of high blood pressure (BP).

What to do? You can have your BP checked at any pharmacy. If the reading is more than 140/90 on two separate occasions, you need to see a doctor.

5. Your skin is dry, blemished or breaking out: This is another sign of an underactive thyroid. It could also be an indication of a vitamin C or zinc deficiency. It could also be caused by a hormonal imbalance.

What to do? Try taking vitamin C and zinc supplements for at least two to three months, but if you have a history of thyroid or hormone problems, rather have a blood test done at the doctor.

6. Your lips are cracked: This is also a sign of a vitamin C and zinc and/or magnesium deficiency.

What to do? Take a supplement with vitamin C, zinc and/or magnesium for at least two to three months.

7. You feel hungry and thirsty often and you also go to the loo often: These symptoms could indicate that you are at risk of diabetes.

What to do? Have your glucose tested. This can be done at home if you or a family member have a glucose testing device. It can also be done at the pharmacy. It is best to do this test in the morning before you've eaten. If it is higher than 7 on two separate occasions, you need to visit your doctor for a glucose tolerance test.

8. Your stool is very dark and smells unusually bad: This could be a sign of bleeding in the stomach or a stomach ulcer. If your stool is very light or white in colour, it could be your gall bladder or you could have liver problems.

What to do? Go to the doctor for urine and blood tests.

9. You're unexpectedly gaining or losing weight: If you're gaining weight, you could be suffering from an underactive thyroid or hormonal imbalance. If you're losing weight, you could have an overactive thyroid, cancer, TB or diabetes.

What to do? The best way to confirm the cause of sudden weight gain or weight loss is to have blood tests done at your GP.

10. Your feet are swollen and you experience sudden lethargy, anxiety, palpitations or chest pain: Your heart might be at risk.

What to do? Have a cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure test done at a pharmacy. If the results are concerning, visit your doctor.

Read more:

60-second health checks

Life expectancy tool

7 shortcuts to wellness


Live healthier

Lifestyle »

E-cigarettes: Here are five things to know

E-cigarettes have become hugely popular in the past decade, but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the US is feeding caution about a product that's already banned in some places.

Allergy »

Ditch the itch: Researchers find new drug to fight hives

A new drug works by targeting an immune system antibody called immunoglobulin E, which is responsible for the allergic reaction that causes hives.