12 Surprising Symptoms of Health Problems That Could Cost Thousands


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It's tempting to ignore seemingly minor symptoms. Going to the doctor can be scary and also costly if you have to take off work or don't have insurance coverage. But such symptoms are often the only warning that a disease is developing. And it's not always obvious. A condition that appears innocuous could indicate heart disease or cancer. Consulting a doctor if you notice the following symptoms could prevent the progression of a serious condition and avoid big medical costs.

woman over white with blurred vision and trouble focusing
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Sudden blurring of vision can be cause for a hospital visit, as it's associated with more serious health issues like diabetes, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. But the symptom could be missed because blurred vision is commonly associated with myopia, or nearsightedness, a non-emergency easily remedied with glasses or contact lenses. Parents may save money over the long term by having an ophthalmologist or optometrist identify impairments in children early. Research indicates that corrective measures can slow the progress of some vision disorders.

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Sometimes itchy skin is a sign of a disorder more serious and costly than just dry skin. Persistently itchy skin can be a symptom of conditions such as dermatitis and psoriasis. Psoriasis alone costs the country upward of $50 billion a year, a 2015 study found. There are no cures for these conditions, but early diagnosis can save patients money over the long term by identifying cost-effective treatment. Itchy skin can also be a sign of liver disease or cancers including leukemia and lymphoma.

elderly woman with memory problems and elderly man helping her
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Frequent memory loss can be a sign of many medical problems, but arguably the most serious and costly is dementia. Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for a majority of dementia cases, costs patients an average of more than $60,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, according to a study of Medicare beneficiaries. Although there is no cure, progress can be slowed and money can be saved by diagnosing the disease and starting drug therapy early, potentially forestalling the need for long-term care.

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Frequent urination — typically defined as more than eight times a day — in men is often a sign of benign prostate hyperplasia (or enlarged prostate), which can result in urinary tract infections and other medical problems if untreated. In women, frequent urination is often a sign of a urinary tract infection that can result in serious and costly kidney damage. It is also associated with stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

senior woman having vertigo outdoors
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Dizziness has many causes, and identifying the true culprit can be difficult. Dizziness can be a symptom of an ear infection, which can be avoided by maintaining a healthy immune system and avoiding excessive earwax buildup. Sudden bouts of severe dizziness can be the result of Ménière's disease, a potentially costly condition with other symptoms including hearing loss, headache, and tinnitus. Meniere's disease has no known cause or cure, but patients can save time and money with early diagnosis and proper treatment options to manage it.

man in office uniform having heart burn
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Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. It's a painful experience that affects about 1 in 5 Americans on a weekly basis. Fortunately, heartburn can typically be prevented by not overeating and avoiding foods that stimulate stomach acid. But it can cause esophageal ulcers that are painful and costly to treat. In some cases, frequent heartburn might be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can lead to subsequent serious and costly problems, including esophageal cancer.

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Shortness of breath during periods of rest could signify a serious lung or heart disorder. It is typically categorized as either acute (i.e., it comes on suddenly) or chronic. Acute shortness of breath tends to be associated with serious and costly conditions, such as heart failure or a collapsed lung. Chronic shortness of breath is typically caused by less grave conditions, such as asthma and obesity. Whether acute or chronic, shortness of breath is a serious symptom that should be addressed immediately.

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Sudden and seemingly random diarrhea could be a sign of a bacterial infection or, worse, a parasitic infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of Americans carry parasites that go unnoticed or misdiagnosed. Parasites can cause serious and costly health conditions, such as seizures, pregnancy complications, and heart failure. Other potential causes of sudden changes in bowel movements include colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

tired woman yawning working at office desk and holding a cup of coffee
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Fatigue is an incredibly common symptom that can have many causes. If you're getting a good night's sleep and have no obvious lifestyle problems that could be causing fatigue, getting checked out by a doctor can save big down the line. Although fatigue typically isn't a grave symptom, it is associated with Lyme disease, thyroid disease, and heart disease.
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Coughing associated with the common cold typically disappears within a couple of weeks. But a lingering cough could be a sign of a serious and costly disease, especially if you cough up any amount of blood. Persistent coughing is associated with bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
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Hiccups can be caused by a local disturbance, such as a tumor or cancerous cells in and around the throat. Persistent hiccups can also be a warning of problems in the brain, such as indicating a stroke.

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Doctors often examine the ankles for swelling to get insight into how the kidneys are functioning. This is because decreased kidney function or kidney failure leads to the body retaining more sodium, which creates swelling, especially in the ankles and feet.

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