November 13, 2022
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Warning to men: Avoid the temptation to ignore that pain you are feeling. Doing so could be a recipe for disaster.
Many men tend to downplay symptoms that might prove to be medical emergencies, says Dr. Gillian Schmitz, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Men—and anyone for that matter—can sharply reduce their chances of suffering serious problems by promptly paying attention to any unusual or worrisome pains as soon as they arise, she explains.
She outlines the most common reasons that men require emergency medical attention, but which they often ignore. They are:
In 2019, stomach pain resulted in more than three million visits to the emergency room for men aged 15 to 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mild stomach pain can often be treated at home or as prescribed by a physician, but when stomach pain becomes so severe that you find it hard to stand up or the pain does not ease up within a half-hour it is time for you to seek emergency medical attention, Schmitz says.
Stomach pain that comes on suddenly can be a sign of obstruction, disease, or even a dangerous tear internally. Should the pain continue or be accompanied by stiffness or unusual tenderness, dizziness, persistent vomiting, or coughing up blood the pain can be a sign of an emergency that could be life-threatening.
Heart disease is the major cause of death for men as well as women in the United States. Many men, however, often ignore the warning signs that point to a possible heart attack, Schmitz notes. They wait until the symptoms become unbearable before they ask for help.
A heart attack is not always something that is sudden; delaying receiving medical attention for chest pain can be “incredibly dangerous,” Schmitz explains.
Warning signs include: pressure that feels uncomfortable, or squeezing or fullness in the center of the chest that lasts for several minutes or that eases and later returns.
Warning signs for men that are less common include nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue or weakness that is unexplained, cold sweats, or heart palpitations.
Emergency rooms are filled with men who believe their handyman skills are greater than they really are or who hurt themselves during exercise or recreation, Schmitz notes.
Common causes for injuries to the back include falls from ladders or from rooftops. Other reasons are muscle injuries in the wake of intense or unusual physical activity, or falls out of trees during the hunting season.
Any suspect back or neck injuries should always be taken seriously, Schmitz warns, because there is a risk of damage to the spinal cord or even paralysis.
More than a million visits to emergency rooms in 2019 were a result of headaches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most headaches can be eased with changes in behavior, over-the-counter medication, or improved sleeping habits.
“Cluster headaches,” however, are the most painful and distinct headaches seen in hospital emergency rooms. Such headaches occur five to eight times more often among men. They usually involve severe pain behind one of your eyes.
You should seek emergency care if a headache fails to ease with medication, if the duration, frequency, or severity of the headaches are markedly different than previous headaches, or if a headache is accompanied by slurred speech, confusion, fever, numbness, or weakness, particularly if that is on one side of the person’s body.
Remember, too, that a severe sudden headache that appears to have no apparent cause is one of the signs of a stroke, although it is less common.
Not all risks to men’s health are physical, Dr. Schmitz adds. Emergencies regarding mental health are increasing so much that men die from suicide at a rate that is more than three times that of women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
We need to break the mold and bring down the sigma that is often associated with requesting help, Schmitz says.
Emergency physicians advise that men should exercise regularly as well as undergo regular health checks, including routine cancer screening—particularly for prostate cancer which is the most common cancer that is found among men.
Above all when anything happens that gives reason to believe that a medical emergency is taking place, you should not hesitate to obtain emergency care, Schmitz concludes.