There are innumerable reasons for a trip to the emergency department; coughs, colds, injuries, chest pain and stroke symptoms have all been seen at the Emergency Department at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi over the last year.
The diversity of these conditions reveals just how challenging it can be to decide what symptoms require a visit to the emergency department, or to your regular family doctor. With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to symptoms that are cause to seek immediate medical attention.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Breathing problems can be triggered by many conditions, including an infection like pneumonia, asthma, blood clots, strokes or heart attacks, and should always be evaluated immediately by a medical professional.
- Chest pain
Chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain in the neck, jaw or arm, sweating, vomiting or shortness of breath requires urgent medical attention.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the UAE, and we are seeing more patients come to us with heart attack symptoms, which include chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, vomiting, sudden dizziness and a fast or irregular pulse,” says Dr. Jacques Kobersy, Chair of the Emergency Medicine Institute.
- Changes in vision
From blurry and reduced vision to a complete loss of vision in one or both eyes, if this occurs suddenly, head straight to the emergency department. Injury, arterial blockages, nerve problems or a stroke could be the cause of these symptoms.
- Difficulty speaking
If you or someone around you suddenly experiences speech difficulties or talks in a jumbled or confusing way, this could be a sign of a stroke. “We always emphasize the importance of acting fast and seeking medical help immediately to limit the long-term damage caused by stroke,” says Dr. Kobersy.
- Fainting, sudden dizziness
Tiredness, dehydration and long periods of standing particularly in high temperatures can all result in you fainting or feeling dizzy. If you can rule out these factors, then low blood pressure, low blood sugar levels or a heart condition could be the cause, and a reason to seek medical attention.
- Confusion or changes in mental status
Everyone is prone to moments of confusion or forgetfulness. Such momentary lapses don’t necessitate a trip to the emergency department, but a confused or altered mental state that is prolonged, follows a head injury or is accompanied by drowsiness, hallucinations or disorientation does.
- Any sudden or severe pain
This type of pain can occur in any part of the body and cause other symptoms like nausea or vomiting. It could be caused by an earlier trauma you experienced. When the doctor at the emergency department is treating you, explain in detail where the pain is located, what type of pain it is and anything that might have caused it.
- Uncontrolled bleeding
If you’ve been applying pressure to a wound for over 10 minutes and it continues to bleed, then you should head to the emergency department. Even if it’s a small cut, it could be deep enough to require stitches.
- Severe or persistent vomiting and diarrhea
If these symptoms persist for more than a few hours and you are unable to take in fluids, then you risk becoming dehydrated. A visit to hospital will identify what is causing the sickness or diarrhea and help to alleviate it too.
- Coughing or vomiting blood
The reasons for coughing up blood can range from a prolonged cough to pneumonia, ulcers and tumors. A trained medical professional will help to establish the root cause.
- Unusual abdominal pain
Sudden, sharp or severe abdominal pains, pain accompanied by vomiting or nausea, or tenderness to your stomach are all indicative of a condition that requires immediate medical evaluation.