When Symptoms of “Old Age” Signal a Medical Problem

Posted on: Apr 6, 2017

When Symptoms of "Old Age" Signal a Medical ProblemOur bodies will change as a normal part of the aging process. Age-related changes happen gradually over time. Sudden changes in your body or mental function may not be symptoms of “old age,” but may signal a medical problem.
Dr. Christopher Callahan, of The Center for Aging Research at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, explains that he sees older patients who express that they are tired, have difficulty moving around, or are feeling down, but are accepting their symptoms because they think that is what they should expect in their later years. However, Dr. Callahan explains that “fatigue, weakness, and depression, among several other common concerns, aren’t to-be-expected consequences of growing older.” These symptoms may signal a medical problem.

  • Fatigue: Constantly feeling tired or have low energy could indicate an underlying condition that may be treatable. For example, sleep problems, pain, arthritis, or an underactive thyroid may be potential culprits of fatigue. These conditions, as well as others, can be addressed by your doctor.
  • Physical Weakness: While losing muscle mass is a normal part of aging, sudden changes in strength or weakness appearing in only one side of the body are not. Also, physical weakness may be caused by hormonal changes, infections, inflammation, or problems with the nervous system. Your doctor may be able to treat these conditions. Your doctor may also be able to offer guidance on an exercise regimen to help maintain muscle mass.
  • Appetite Loss: There could be many different causes of appetite loss, many of which can be treated. A few potential causes include effects of medication, depression, or dental problems. Not eating the proper amount of food creates a risk of developing nutritional deficiencies, which can lead to other medical problems.
  • Depression: Feeling sad for weeks or months at a time is not a normal symptom of aging. Long-lasting feelings of sadness, withdrawal from social activates, or general apathy may signal clinical depression.

The above list contains just a few things that may signal medical problems that could be treated by a doctor. We encourage you to be aware of the differences between normal age-related changes and the symptoms that may indicate a medical problem.
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