7 Subtle Signs of Serious Illnesses

We live in a fast-paced world, so it can be easy to ignore little pains or annoyances when they hit. Have a headache? Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Something feels off? Get to bed a little earlier and hope for the best. Small aches and pains are usually nothing to worry over, but there are some subtle symptoms we shouldn’t ignore. The key is knowing the difference.

Dizziness can sometimes indicate a stroke, exhaustion can be a sign of heart disease and profuse sweating could mean diabetes, infection or a heart attack. Changes in handwriting could be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease, increased thirst can indicate diabetes, bad breath can be a sign of organ failure and persistent heartburn is sometimes a symptom of cancer. Get the details on each of these subtle signs and what they could mean.


Dizziness can be caused by a number of conditions, including some harmless enough not to require medical attention — such as being overheated. But in about 11% of cases, dizziness may indicate a stroke. Watch also for signs of confusion, numbness, difficulty seeing or a severe headache, any of which (in combination with dizziness) necessitate an immediate hospital trip.


Feeling fatigued every once in a while is normal, but in some cases, exhaustion can be a sign of heart disease. Being more tired than usual, shortness of breath, dizziness, pain in the chest or neck or severe nausea in combination with fatigue may indicate a problem. They could even be signs of a heart attack. So please seek immediate medical attention.

Profuse Sweating

Sweating more often or in greater amounts than usual or soaking the sheets at night? It could be a sign that you need to turn the heat off or that menopause has begun. In some cases, however, profuse sweating can be a symptom of diabetes, infection or even a heart attack. It’s best to get medical attention and make sure it’s nothing serious.

Changes in Handwriting

A person’s handwriting can change naturally over time due to changes in vision, arthritis and other health conditions that affect the hands. Many of which aren't serious at all, but changes in handwriting may also indicate the first stages of Parkinson’s disease, especially when handwriting takes on a cramped or miniature version of itself.

Increased Thirst

Excessive thirst can be a sign of diabetes. Look for increased urination, fatigue, irritability, changes in vision and weight loss that occurs despite an increased appetite. Diabetes is nothing to play around with, so if there’s any question, see a doctor about getting that blood sugar tested right away.

Bad Breath

When bad breath is persistent or especially foul, it can be an indication of something far more serious. Does it have a hint of ammonia or a urine-like odor to it? That can point to kidney failure. Or maybe it’s more like rotten eggs and garlic, which could mean liver disease. Breath that smells sweet or like rotten apples may be an indicator of diabetes. Bad breath can be more than an embarrassment, so don’t ignore any notable changes.

Frequent Heartburn

Heartburn can be a real pain. Usually, it’s just that burrito or side of onion rings that isn’t sitting well, but sometimes heartburn can be a symptom of cancer. Doctors warn that acid reflux, smoking, alcohol and poor diet can all contribute to Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that can progress into esophageal cancer. Those who have frequent heartburn should see a doctor about making sure it’s nothing serious.

Sometimes what might seem like a minor annoyance ends up being anything but minor — and all too often we ignore these little things and may find out later that they were trying to tell us something all along. It may be challenging to hear it above all the noise but it helps to listen to the body and to check out even small symptoms with regularity. Please see a doctor of any of the above signs and symptoms sound familiar. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

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11/25/2023 5:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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