Many men would rather tough it out than make an appointment with a doctor. But getting an early diagnosis can lead to better treatment outcomes for many health conditions.
Here are 5 symptoms that may mean you have an underlying illness and need to see a doctor. Don't leave your health up to chance. If you have any of these symptoms, or if it has been 12 months since your last health check, book yourself an appointment with your doctor now.
1. Pain in your chest
Chest pain can be scary because your first thought is often ‘heart attack’. While this isn’t always the cause, you need to have any chest pain checked out by a doctor straight away, just in case.
Chest pain can be a sign of many conditions, including:
- heart attack
- aortic dissection
- a blood clot
- lung cancer
- a digestive problem such as acid reflux or a stomach ulcer.
Read more about other causes of chest pain.
2. A big belly
When a guy’s waistline is bigger than his hips it’s often jokingly referred to as his ‘beer gut’. However, carrying extra weight around your middle isn't always a laughing matter.
- It's often a sign of obesity and may mean you need to make some lifestyle changes.
- Visceral fat (the stuff that hugs your gut) can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
- Your stomach can also become larger due to fluid, not fat, from conditions such as liver disease.
A large waist measurement can be a sign of increased risk of health problems, even if you have a normal weight. For men, your risk increases when your waist is over 94cm, and is considered high if it is over 102cm.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about fat around your waistline or would like some help with losing weight.
3. Trouble getting an erection
Not being able to ‘get it up’ can be embarrassing. But you’re not alone – many men have erection problems at times and the chance of this happening increases as you get older.
However, a bruised ego isn't the only problem you have to face if you're having trouble getting or keeping erections. They are often a sign of an underlying condition, such as:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- hormone problems, such as thyroid disease
- nerve damage caused by spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
- kidney disease
- chronic alcoholism.
If you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction, see your doctor as it may have a medical cause.
While being ‘blocked up’ could just be a heads up that you need to eat more high-fibre foods and drink more fluids, it could also be a warning sign of bowel cancer.
- Any change in bowel habits, such as constipation (hard to poo) or diarrhoea (runny poo), should be checked out by a GP.
- Both can be signs of colorectal (bowel) cancer, which is the second highest cause of cancer-related death in men (after lung cancer).
- Other symptoms to watch for include bloody stools (poo), unexplained weight loss, anaemia, fatigue, and gut symptoms such as gas, bloating or cramps.
You can have bowel cancer for several years before symptoms develop, so you need to see a doctor right away if you have any of the above symptoms.
5. Needing to pee often
If you develop a ‘budget bladder’ and are constantly plagued with the need to pee, you should see your doctor.
Frequent peeing may be a sign of:
- a problem in your prostate or a urinary tract infection
- diabetes and that that you’re drinking lots because you’re constantly thirsty – extreme thirst is one of the first signs of diabetes
- an infection or failure of your kidneys or heart.
Read more about bladder control problems in men.
- Chest pain Auckland Regional HealthPathways, NZ, 2020
- Assessing your weight and health risk NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, US
- Clinical guidelines for weight management in New Zealand adults Ministry of Health, NZ, 2017
- Seven things you need to know about men’s health NZ Medical Journal, 2017
- Frequent urination Mayo Clinic, US, 2020