When you're young and busy, it can be easy to forget about your health. You've got a career to build, roommates to contend with, and that whole "adulting" thing on your mind. Rarely is there time to go to the doctor, much less stop long enough to notice all the subtle health symptoms that can point to health problems in young women.
Whether it's a weird looking freckle, crackly knees, or pain during sex, these issues may not seem like a big deal. But often, they are the body's way of signaling something may be up with your health — if you take the time to listen.
If you feel weirdly tired or rundown, or notice other uncomfortable changes in your body, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor. Which is, of course, a habit you should be getting into anyway.
"You are never too young to stay on top of your health and wellness," OB/GYN and women's health expert Sherry Ross tells Bustle. "Most of us need some professional guidance to walk beside us along the path of wellness. Seeing a health care provider yearly is the ideal way to navigate any health issues you may or may not be aware of." So, what might some of those be? Read on for a few subtle health symptoms that are definitely worth a closer look.
1. Abnormal Freckles Or Moles
While not all moles and freckles are cause for concern, you should definitely keep an eye on them. "If you notice a new mole on your body, a change in shape, color or size in a mole that has been there for years, or a mole that looks different than all your other moles, then see your dermatologist sooner rather than later," says board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD. It could be a dangerous form of skin cancer known as melanoma, which she tells me is the leading cancer in women ages 25 to 29. Catching it early is key.
2. Pain During Sex
There are all sorts of causes of pain during sex, including vaginal dryness, infection, latex allergy, a ruptured ovarian cyst, endometriosis — the list goes on and on. While you might think it's no big deal, it's definitely worth bringing up with your doctor. As Ross says, "There is an answer and treatment for this common problem."
3. Burning When You Pee
UTIs are extremely common. So common, in fact, that you might think it's OK to ignore your symptoms — like burning during urination — and hope that it goes away. But trust me when I say this is a bad idea. "Many women think that they can treat UTIs on their own, but that's never the case — you must see a doctor," says Dr. Allison Hill, OBGYN and spokesperson for urinary health brand Cystex. "If [you] don't, the UTI can turn into a more severe infection."
4. Popping And Snapping Knee Joints
Ever stoop down to pick something up and then joke about your popping knees? While you may think you're just "getting old," it certainly isn't a symptom you should ignore. "This is a sign of abnormal pressure on the delicate cartilage on the backside of the knee cap," says Barbara Bergin, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. The issue can and will get worse as you age, so make sure you talk with a doctor about ways to keep your joints healthy.
5. Sudden Changes In Your Vision
Slightly worsening vision is to be expected as you get older — especially with all the time you spend staring at screens. But if your vision changes suddenly, don't take it lightly. As the health experts at VSP Global tell me, issues with double vision, eye floaters, and unequal pupil size could be a sign of an underlying condition. If you have any of these, be sure to talk to your eye doctor ASAP.
6. Ongoing Depression Or Anxiety
It's normal to experience the occasional bad mood or bout of anxiety, especially as you contend with the pressure of new jobs and all that life throws your way. If the issues are ongoing, however, get some help. "If you've accepted [these symptoms] as part of your life, you need to look into getting some help and learning coping skills," says psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez. There are definitely steps to take to feel like yourself again.
7. Dizziness And Fatigue
Depending on how you've been eating all your life, bad habits can start to catch up to you in your 30s in the form of high blood pressure and high blood sugar, NYC-based register dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD tells me. If you've been feeling dizzy or fatigued for no reason, it may be time to talk to a doctor.
8. Hair Thinning And Hair Loss
While it's normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day (when you comb your hair, shower, etc.) you shouldn't notice any substantial thinning on top of your head. If you do, it could be a sign of underlying health problems.
"We often rule out other medical conditions such as thyroid conditions, but much of the time hair thinning results from lack of iron, vitamin D, and other key nutrients," physician Arielle Levitan, MD tells Bustle. "Many women in their 20s and 30s lack these nutrients."
While this may mean adjusting your diet, it's never too late to turn things around.
9. Bloating And Abdominal Pains
Bloating and abdominal pains can be a sign of PMS, constipation, or simply that huge burrito you ate for lunch. But if you have these issues and they don't go away, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor. You might have IBS or another digestive issue, but sometimes these are vague symptoms of ovarian cancer. The sooner you catch this one, the better.
10. Issues Getting Pregnant
OK, so maybe this one isn't "subtle." But if you're trying to have a baby, it's not always smart to sit back and wait for the magic to happen. "Guidelines recommend that women under the age of 35 years seek medical attention if they have not conceived after a year of trying, and women 35 years and older after six months of unsuccessful attempts," says fertility specialist Janet Bouknight, MD. A doctor can help you figure out what's up and put you on a path to better fertility.
11. Chest Pains And Fatigue
Women's heart attack symptoms are often different from men's. While we, too, can get the stereotypical crushing chest pain, women also often feel nauseous, tired, and anxious, among other things. While not incredibly common in younger women, it's still a good idea to know the early signs of a heart attack.
Even though you're young, it's so important to maintain your health. Starting now, and knowing which symptoms may be a subtle sign of a problem, is so important when it comes to advocating for your health.
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