While many diseases and conditions such as influenza or psoriasis come with obvious symptoms, plenty come with seemingly innocent warning signs people end up wishing they hadn’t ignored. No one wants to live life as a hypochondriac, which means people sometimes ignore symptoms they don’t think are life-threatening. And particularly rare diseases can come without warning, making it difficult for a person to know they’re in danger during the early stages.
To help others not make the same mistakes, Redditors came together to share health issues they should have looked into sooner. Unfortunately, a lot of these symptoms simply resembled other conditions basically everyone has or were misdiagnosed as something else. Either way, these neglected symptoms ended up demonstrating how important it is to pay attention to changes in your body. You may find your body just needs vitamins and supplements, but it could be something more serious.
(Comments have been edited lightly for clarity.)
From Redditor /u/buttershovel:
My sister started to get frequent migraines just after she turned 22. Frustrated, she did look into it – they happened more and more often. She went to the doctor, who waved it off as stemming from stress (her husband had just been sent to Afghanistan). My mom pushed for a CT scan, which the doctor said was unnecessary. My sister went home without any kind of prescription and a suggestion to come back in a few months if it persisted.
Well, a few weeks later, she had a massive seizure. Got taken to the emergency room where doctors discovered a tumor in her brain and diagnosed her with a rare form of brain cancer. She died within a year.
Mind The Sores
From Redditor /u/99_red_balloons_:
If it won’t go away, get it checked out!
Last year I got what I thought was a blister on my leg. A few days later it had turned into a sore. I thought it was probably just the burst blister that was a bit raw. I was putting antibacterial cream on it, but it just wasn’t healing… in fact, it was getting bigger and bigger.
A week after it first appeared, the sore was about the size of a quarter, still raw-looking and had a little black spot in the middle. That made me freak out a little bit so I went to my regular doc. She looked at it and said it looked like a spider bite, so she prescribed antibiotics (five-day course) and sent me on my way. By day three of the antibiotics, the skin around the black spot was starting to turn gray and the sore itself had doubled in size.
I couldn’t get hold of my doc, so I went to the emergency room. The emergency doc took one look at it, admitted me, and scheduled surgery for the next morning. It turns out it was a serious flesh-eating bacteria. I had a big chunk cut out of my leg.
Just A Chronic Cough
From Redditor /u/nuclear_blob:
Not me, but my grandfather had trouble breathing for a long time. It was nothing horrible – just shortness of breath, heavy breathing, etc. But he had to take care of my grandma. He went to the hospital where he started coughing (a dry cough, unable to stop). They diagnosed him with an aggressive form of lung cancer, and he died within three weeks.
The doctor told us if he had come earlier, they might have been able to save him.
Pepto-Bismol Won’t Solve This
From Redditor /u/whereswalda:
Anything that is persistent. If it’s not going away, it’s not “just” anything: it needs to be looked at.
Persistent, raging heartburn. I was young and dumb and uninsured, so I put it off. I put it off for nearly three months, by which point I was subsisting on plain yogurt and lentils and still having extremely painful bouts of heartburn and vomiting. I had lost a lot of weight and was consistently exhausted and in pain.
I finally went to the doctor – it was a raging case of H. pylori infection. It was cleared up with antibiotics, but my doctor warned me at the time that I had probably caused irreversible damage to my stomach and digestive system by waiting so long. She was right – within a year, the heartburn was back, along with the nausea and vomiting. I essentially gave myself a chronic disease by ignoring the initial infection.
Moral of the story: if it keeps coming back, don’t ignore it. What could have been treatable before will turn into something worse.
More Than Just Bad Cramps
From Redditor /u/my_random_thots:
Increasingly painful periods and nasty PMS symptoms in general. Family doctor attributed the change to age and just wouldn’t take it seriously.
After a year of complaints, the doctor prescribed birth control pills, which did nothing.
After two years I finally lost it and cried in her office. The cramps had gone from “hmm… this is a bit more than usual” to full-on WTF, 8/10, white-knuckle, puking-level pain. I asked to please, please be referred to an OB-GYN.
When the gynecologist examined me, he also did an ultrasound in the office. He took one look at the screen, told me I could dress and he’d be right back. When he returned, he was carrying his surgery bookings schedule.
A few weeks later I had a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy (tubes out).
It would usually take up to a year to book that surgery, but he said he absolutely had to find me a spot. He was horrified I hadn’t been seen much sooner and described my uterus as “more tumor than healthy tissue; it looks more like a raspberry than a pear.”
Fortunately it was just benign fibroids, but it taught me a lesson: IF SOMETHING HURTS, GET HELP! Yell if you have to.
A Shrinking Mole
From Redditor /u/notsolittleliongirl:
My dad has a lot of moles, and my mom forced him to go to the dermatologist because he hadn’t been in years. She was worried about a few of the big moles that she thought might be getting bigger. The dermatologist pointed one out and asked if that was one they were concerned about. My mom said that one actually seemed like it was getting smaller, so she wasn’t concerned. The doctor informed my parents they were doing a biopsy right there and then, and he cut a 1.5-inch-long chunk out of my dad’s back.
It was melanoma. The really bad skin cancer. It turns out, if a mole is getting smaller, it’s probably because the immune system has a reason to attack it.
A Taste For Lettuce
From Redditor /u/lovetheblazer:
I started craving iceberg lettuce like you wouldn’t believe. Like I’d wake up in the middle of the night and go to the fridge just to eat handfuls of lettuce. At my worst, I was eating an entire bag of iceberg lettuce a day, no dressing or toppings, just munching on it like it was popcorn at the movie theater.
Finally decided I should drag myself to the doctor for a few blood tests, assuming I was a bit dehydrated or vitamin deficient or something. My hemoglobin was 5 when it should be 13-16, ideally. My ferritin (iron stores) level was 1, which is literally as low as the test goes. I went straight from the doctor’s office to the hospital to be admitted for two blood transfusions and an IV iron infusion. The hospital staff couldn’t believe I’d been walking around and even working overtime with a level that low for months. Within 24 hours of my blood and iron transfusions, my lettuce craving went away.
Growth Spurts Might Be A Sign
From Redditor /u/CrustyHamSandwich:
I was much taller than my family. They’re all around 5’5″, but I was 6’5″ by high school. We always joked I was a freak or won the genetic lottery.
I went to my father’s doctor for a physical. He noticed the swelling in my hands and ran a blood test. Turns out my growth hormone levels were about three times the normal amount. I was diagnosed with acromegaly.
Got an MRI which showed I had a tumor on my pituitary gland. Got it removed and was feeling better after a few years.
From Redditor /u/Voltusfive2:
My 2-year-old daughter would lie on her left side on the floor randomly during the day, walked with a wide step, and finally had multiple diagnoses for constipation. She had abdominal embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma.
After 54 weeks of chemotherapy, an unimaginable medical hell, she is 4 and almost a year into remission. She’s hard to keep up with, and it’s like she’s discovering everything pain-free for the first time.
Just Some Light Spotting
From Redditor /u/mk_skully:
My Mum had some light (like one or two drops, three times a year) spotting. For context, she was well past menopause. She mentioned it to her GP, and he sent her for a test. It was uterine cancer.
Caught it at stage 1 before it spread, so she was able to have a hysterectomy without needing chemo or radiation therapy. Thank Christ her seemingly small and insignificant symptom was checked out.
The Hairdresser Who Saw The Signs
From Redditor /u/AngryCotton:
I owe my life to my barber. When I was 17 he noticed a mole on the top of my head, and said I should get that looked at. Two things could’ve happened here. One, I could’ve brushed it off. Two, he didn’t have to say anything. Anyway, I went to get it checked out and ended up having it cut out with a scalpel.
Turns out that it was cancerous but at the very early stages. They did a little more cutting and were able to get everything out. It happened almost 20 years ago, and life is good.
Earwax Builds Up To Something Worse
From Redditor /u/werekitty93:
I don’t think you’d classify this as an illness, but I would clean my ears regularly yet whenever I went to the doctor’s, they always said there was too much wax and couldn’t see anything. My ears tended to hurt frequently and I had a hard time hearing for years. In high school, I went to a doctor who, as usual, checked my ears. Instead of just brushing it off and saying I need to clean more, she decided to do a total flush. Took two to three hours total to get both ears cleared, and when we were done, she discovered I had an ear infection that was most likely a year old. As a result, I can’t hear well out of either ear, but that ear in particular has more hearing loss than the other.
We also discovered why I had such an abundance of earwax. We had already figured out I had hyperhidrosis (overactive sweat gland), and that caused my ears to make more wax. I have been instructed never to use Q-tips again (it just cakes the wax to the sides of my ears), and I go see a doctor once a month to have them flushed.
So, had we just had a doctor flush my ears probably five years sooner, I wouldn’t have such hearing loss.
The Funky Knee Trick
From Redditor /u/I_Hunt_N00bs:
My right knee had been slightly funky for a couple of years. I originally noticed it after I did a bad tackle playing soccer and landed on my knee. I presumed it was just going to be a glitch that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. It didn’t hurt or anything, but what was funky was you could put your fingers on the inside of my knee and as I compressed and extended my knee you could feel something clicking past tendons and soft tissues.
After a number of years it seemed like there was a bit of swelling around my knee, and during some downtime from work I decided I should finally see a doctor about it. I told him about the clicking and when I showed him, his face isn’t something I’ll forget – it was full of disbelief, and he said, “Well, that’s not something I have ever felt before,” then sent me off for an X-ray and ultrasound. Turns out I had an osteochondroma (an abnormal bone spur) on the inside of my knee, and the tendons were literally slipping from one side to the other as I bent my knee back and forth.
The reason I should have looked into it sooner is because before I got a chance to see the specialist and book a surgery to have it removed, the spur punctured something in my knee. It caused a lot of swelling and excruciating pain. I went straight to the emergency room, was admitted straight away, and they were considering operating that night.
In the end they sent me home after four days of rest and observation, and I got it removed a couple of weeks later with no major issues.
At the time, the specialist noted sometimes these things can be genetic and appear in other places in the body… I have a weird clicking in my right foot at the moment that I have no explanation for, and it’s starting to get slightly painful. I should probably go see a doctor.
Tiredness And Leg Pain
From Redditor /u/Prima13:
Not me but my 9-year-old son. Last summer he complained about leg tiredness and slept a lot. Our pediatrician couldn’t find anything wrong with him. Fast-forward to January 2017, and suddenly he became constipated and his bladder started retaining enormous amounts of urine.
We took him to the local children’s hospital, and they felt that his constipation was keeping him from releasing urine, so they hit him with gallons of MiraLAX mixture to get him moving. He pooped quite a bit, but nothing really changed.
After a week of this at the hospital, my wife lost her mind on the hospital staff and demanded they think outside the box. The neurology department came in and did an MRI, and they found he had a fatty filum at the base of his spine, which presented as a tethered cord. They operated immediately.
Unfortunately, the damage is done. My son no longer has bowel or bladder function because of the nerve damage caused by the tethered cord, so we have to use a straight catheter on him six times a day and keep after his bowels with stimulant laxatives and enemas. We will be entering a clinic in May where they will run a series of daily X-rays and enemas to arrive at the mixture we will need to use going forward.
Poor kid will have to live with this for the rest of his life. My wife and I are sick over it. If the issue had been caught sooner, he might not have had to deal with this. If we had waited longer, it’s possible he could have lost the use of his legs.
Take The Swelling Seriously
From Redditor /u/RyFromTheChi:
I lost a testicle to it when I was 12. Just woke up in the middle of the night in severe pain. Felt like I was being kicked in the balls repeatedly, and they were swollen up huge. My parents for some reason decided to basically wait it out for almost two days before they took me in to the hospital. I had surgery that day.
The doctors said if I had came in right away, they would have saved them both, and if they waited another day, I would have lost them both. So now I have one big one that I call the Wrecking Ball.
A Hand Spasm Became A Seizure
From Redditor /u/SeaBeeDecodesLife:
Not me, but my childhood best friend. She had this thing where her hand would spasm. It was kind of like a hand tremor. I just assumed it was a tic, since I have a similar one (knee bouncing up and down) when I get nervous. Once, when I asked her about it, she said she had pins and needles, so I also considered that she might just be shaking it off (even though the tremors were obviously an involuntary movement).
That’s really all there was. There were no other symptoms. She was fine for a really long time and then suddenly she just rapidly declined within the space of 24 hours.
We were in class when she went down and started seizing. Just as quick as she’d gone down, she was awake again and fine. My teacher took her to the nurse, and the nurse called her parents. I’ve had to work hard to try and not be angry at the fact her parents chose to take her home that night instead of taking her straight to the emergency room. She had a headache, so they gave her ibuprofen and put her to bed. She died sometime in the night of an undiagnosed brain tumor.
Often, brain tumors are misdiagnosed as psychiatric issues. So if you notice a rapid decline in your mental health/stability without any clear reason, or even with a reason, get a scan done.
Back Pain As A Kid
From Redditor /u/Velcosby:
I had severe back pain as a 9-year-old child. I would come home crying from softball practice that my parents forced me to go to, and they never believed me about the back pain. They thought I was making it up to try and get out of practice.
When they finally did take me to the doctor, it was scoliosis and too late for a brace. I just had my fourth back surgery three weeks ago where I had to have an entire disk replaced. I am 21.
From Redditor /u/PhenotypicalWalrus:
Not me, but my mother. There were several years where it was clear her energy level was declining and she was getting more tired and irritable. It was definitely something gradual but noteworthy.
I remember the first time it was brought up to the doctor. They felt it was just related to age or menopause, but within a year my mother was so tired she could hardly get out of bed.
Turns out her thyroid was basically shutting down over the year or two this built up. By the time we had a diagnosis from an endocrinologist, she essentially had no thyroid function.
Same thing recently happened to my older sister two years ago, so anytime I seem less energetic than usual, my family goes into full-blown freakout trying to make me go get blood work done.
Just A Little Difference Between The Legs
From Redditor /u/awesomeaviator:
I had problems walking as a child and had a big roll in my gait. My parents (and the doctor) thought it was a foot problem, so I was taken to a podiatrist and given orthotics, which helped. However, they didn’t fix my pronated leg. Doctors said I had growing pains, so my parents ignored the pain for a while, especially since I never really had too many problems playing footy and cricket. I guess I just learned to put up with the pain.
After 18 years of pain in my legs and feet, I had a physio figure out that my hips didn’t line up and that it was highly likely that I suffered a hip dysplasia during birth that was not corrected. My right knee and foot are ruining themselves now as a result of my right leg being shorter than my left.
The Importance Of Routine Eye Exams
From Redditor /u/NoMansLight:
Get your damn eyes checked! Doesn’t matter if you have 20/20 vision (or think you do), you should get a yearly checkup from an optometrist.
I have never had a problem with my vision, and just last week my wife made an appointment with the optometrist for the both of us. Well, it turns out I do have 20/20 vision and good peripheral vision (for now), but the optometrist also discovered I have a rare disease. Pigment dispersion syndrome, most often found in people between 20 to 40 years old. A clear indication of this ailment is Krukenberg spindles on the cornea. Pigment from your iris sloughs off and floats freely in the aqueous humor, and it can get lodged in the drainage system of your eye, thus causing increased interocular pressure – when this happens it’s called pigment glaucoma and can lead to permanent blindness.
So despite otherwise good eyesight, there’s a possibility I’ll go blind at a pretty young age, there are no signs of open angle increased intraocular pressure, the kind caused by pigment glaucoma, and the damage is permanent. Get your eyes checked!
Never Ignore Spinal Pain
From Redditor /u/DragonToothGarden:
For two years over 20 doctors told me it was impossible that the very localized, severe pain deep inside my spine was anything other than “childhood trauma and stress from my job manifesting into pain and I needed to meditate and sh*t.” I was “too young” for such pain. It came out of the blue while I was a 26-year-old in excellent shape. Plus, expect more disbelief when you have complaints of pain if you are female.
That pain turned out to be an aggressive tumor growing inside a vertebrae that nearly killed me. Had lifesaving surgery in Europe, but because I was misdiagnosed for so long, I’m now in agonizing pain and disabled.
I had to fight for tests, treatment, etc., and this was with excellent insurance. I just “looked too good” on the outside, even when I’d be weeping and unable to stand up (yet then, when I’d show emotion from the pain, I was deemed some weepy, dramatic junkie wanting drugs and attention).
A Small Itch
From Redditor /u/Auntie_Ahem:
A week before my fourth Halloween, I am playing on my Cat in the Hat scooter, fall on the pavement, and get a good scratch on my knee. 24 hours later it starts itching pretty bad. Another 24 hours later, I can’t sleep; it’s itching like crazy and getting red and hot to the touch. Mom thinks I’m being a drama queen (in her defense, I was a bit of a dramatic threenager) and doesn’t really look at it too closely.
24 hours later it aches so bad I can’t walk and the itching and redness is worse. I end up in the hospital for a week with cellulitis that’s so bad I come very close to amputation and/or death. I have no clue at the time, but my mom told me it was bad enough they told her to have relatives come visit just in case it was their last chance to do so.
Doctor tells my mom that if I had come into an office on the first or second day, I may have gotten by with just a strong injection of penicillin and a week of oral antibiotics.
Stress Can Kill
From Redditor /u/echelon1776:
When my dad passed suddenly, my mom’s colitis flared up so bad that her colon rotted and perforated. She went into septic shock and it killed her three months after he passed. They were both in their early 50s. If a major stressor happens in your life, and you have stress-induced flare-ups with Crohn’s or colitis, even if you feel you’re fine and don’t need them, PLEASE ask your doc for some temporary meds to help you get through it. If my mom wasn’t so stubborn, something as simple as anxiety medication could have prevented it getting that bad.
And also, I encourage everyone to research the signs and symptoms of sepsis. Infections are no joke.
A New Twitch
From Redditor /u/brom_ance:
Five years ago my mother noticed her pinkie would twitch. She was a truck driver at the time and didn’t want anything interfering with her income, so she ignored it. Fast-forward to three weeks ago. Completely bedridden, spasms, weakness, unable to walk, eat, use bathroom without assistance. Multiple system atrophy, P-type. Looks like Parkinson’s, but quicker symptom onset and much shorter lifespan. She’ll be gone in five-ish years.
Please, if something isn’t right, get it checked.
It Started Out As Bloating
From Redditor /u/PM_Your_Naughty_Vids:
My sister, 21 years old, complained of feeling bloated for a couple weeks. Turned out she had pancreatic cancer that had grown too large and damaged the splenic artery, so she was bleeding internally, which caused the feeling of being bloated. We had no idea until she passed away after a night of going out and drinking together for our brother’s birthday (the alcohol thinned her blood, ripped the artery further, and she bled to death internally, alone in her apartment that night).
She talked about going to the doctor, I told her it was probably no big deal. I’ll never tell anyone that again for the rest of my life.