See a doctor soon, now or right now?
September 23, 2013 11:07 AM   Subscribe

I've been feeling a little out of sorts since the weekend. Should I go bug my GP or am I being a hypochondriac?

I went for a short run on Saturday morning and maybe a mile in, I felt light-headed and dizzy. I try to run through things but I actually texted my husband and said that I didn't feel well. I walked for a little, then finished the run and got home before he saw the text. I feel like since then, I've felt ... winded is the best way to describe it. We walked to and from brunch and I didn't feel well then either. I took a long nap and we had a pretty quiet night. Got a lot of sleep Saturday night but I still felt tired Sunday. Didn't do much Sunday besides get groceries and went to bed (relatively) early. I set my alarm to get up early for a run this morning but I just don't feel comfortable right now running. I had hoped to Do Things this weekend but I didn't think pushing myself was a great idea.

It's hard to describe my symptoms. Feeling winded is the best I can come up with, followed by feeling weak and tired - not soul-crushingly tired but just not as energetic as usual. My mother died of a heart attack before she hit 60 and I've been concerned that something wonky is up with my heart before (a few years ago, I passed out for no reason). I've been under a lot of stress and working late but it's manageable. My diet could certainly be better and I could definitely work out more but I'm doing relatively okay in regards to diet and exercise. I made the mistake of looking at WebMD which told me that I'm going to die but I think that is the actual purpose of WebMD. I'm concerned that I'm actually creating an internal feedback loop where I think, being anxious is a symptom of something ---> OMG I'm getting more anxious I'm going to die soon! I haven't tried taking anything to calm down. Maybe I should?

Is there an easy way to see if I'm overreacting, under-reacting or reacting appropriately? I could try to find a blood pressure machine nearby if that would be helpful. I can try bugging my GP or just going to his office but by this point in the day, I'm not sure that he has room in his schedule. Plus I have an afternoon meeting and I would prefer not to say to my manager, GTG might be dying. Could I go to a clinic type setting at a drugstore?

Thanks for humoring me. I feel semi-stupid posting this question. My father did go to the ER once because he thought he was having a heart attack and it was just anxiety. Genetics!
posted by kat518 to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have health insurance? Most have an on-call nurse or some other person who can give you some triage about something like this. They will walk you through a set of questions and while I think they lean towards "go to the doctor" in their assessments, it's sort of their job to help you focus on what's important and whether this is "Go in right now" or "Make an appointment this week" territory. I have no specific advice other than making sure you're eating okay (protein, fiber), limiting caffeine and staying hydrated.
posted by jessamyn at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, you should go see the doctor. (IANAD) This does sound potentially cardiac to me, honestly - but remember that "cardiac symptoms" does not mean "you are going to die right this second", it can just mean "you need to get evaluated and treated". I'd go sooner rather than later, though, if your mother had a heart attack young. As you know from WebMD, women can have off-and-on laggy symptoms as part of a heart attack/heart problem.
posted by Frowner at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2013

Feeling winded is the best I can come up with, followed by feeling weak and tired

I had this after taking 10 flights (don't ask) and my GP put me on a boost dose of steroids and some inhalers. Things got better almost immediately. I think you could just call and make an appointment, because it doesn't sound like an emergency but does sound like you should see someone for an exam.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love going to the doctor and if you have insurance there is no question you should do it. As a fellow mild to moderate hypochondriac, it always makes me feel better to have gone and either been reassured there is nothing wrong, or prescribed some tests and/or given a potential diagnosis. More information is always good. Plus, I like having a good relationship with a doctor who knows me well, and the best way to get them to know you well is to go to the doctor regularly.

So, earlier this summer I was having symptoms like that and I went to the doctor. They took all my vitals and some blood and did a chest x-ray and gave me an inhaler (which did nothing but make me feel like I was on speed), but basically there was nothing wrong with me. I do have seasonal allergies, usually of the eye-itching and sneezing variety, so in my case I think it was just the allergic symptoms manifesting in a new and exciting way. It was a great relief, though, to just have gone and had the tests and know it was nothing to worry about. You should go.
posted by something something at 11:22 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Almost the exact same thing happened to me last week while running. I went to my doctor and am now on bronchitis meds.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2013

I'm going to weigh in heavily on the side of seeing a doctor as soon as you can. This is a Paramedic speaking. People call 911 for less than this and I don't blink an eye at it. The onset during exercise and failure to resolve itself afterwards concern me. I am not saying doom doom doom, but if you're a runner, in decent shape, and feeling winded with normal activity, it needs to be checked out to rule out cardiac involvement. And it should be done soon. You need at least an ECG, and possibly some blood work to really assess what's going on.

So please get it checked out today. If it's nothing: great - now you can step outside that cycle of anxiety. If something is going on, then the earlier you address it, the better. And if it's not too much trouble, let us know how it goes.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Don't ever mess around with cardiac symptoms. Go to the doctor. Even if it turns out to be anxiety, it's still better to go. No one will look down on you if it does turn out to be anxiety. I've sat with someone in the hospital where it turned out to be anxiety and no one looked down on him. A loved one of mine has gone and it turned out to be anxiety one time, acid reflux another time, and cardiac arrest the third time (during a stress test). If this person hadn't taken his symptoms seriously each time, he would not be alive today.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:42 AM on September 23, 2013

Also, I'm not sure about the capacity of a drugstore clinic to address this, although most stop-in urgent care centers where I work have the ability to perform an ECG. Be aware that they will bump anything they can't handle up to the ER. I suspect that if you call your doctor's office with these symptoms, s/he will either make room for you today or recommend you be evaluated at an ER.

Here's my public service message for the day. Going to the ER out of concern that Something Serious is going on is OK even when it turns out to be nothing. That's one of the functions of the health care system. No one expects patients to be 100% certain when they're having a heart attack and when something more mundane is going on.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just another piece of anecdata in addition to what I said before. When I was having weird arrhythmia that was bothering me, I did exactly that. I called the nurse, she talked me through some symptoms, was basically like "you should take yourself to the doc today, no you don't need an ambulance, call to make sure they can give you an ECG" One of the local urgent care places had the machine to do that and one of them didn't. I went there, waited 20 minutes, they did some tests, took some blood, determined I had high potassium (for some reason, longer story) sent me home with instructions to drink lots of water and go easy on the exercise for a few days. It was covered by my insurance, my co-pay was $35 or something and everyone was totally nice and decent to me. I was so used to either my (rural) doctor being like "hey if you haven't fallen into a thresher you're probably okay" (which is usually fine for slightly hypochondriacal me) or waiting a week for test results. I was surprised how quickly my issue was diagnosed and resolved. And drinking lots of water did the trick and I came back for a follow-up the next week and was doing much better.
posted by jessamyn at 12:01 PM on September 23, 2013

Thanks, folks. The nurse hotline said to see someone. My GP can't see me until tomorrow so now I'm debating between trying to see a GP I haven't met before or going to the ER. I'd rather not go to the ER - is it going to be a bajillion dollars? I'm insured but a bajillion dollars is a lot.
posted by kat518 at 12:26 PM on September 23, 2013

Not the ER: look for a convenient care clinic, acute care clinic, or whatever the buzzword is near you.
posted by BrashTech at 12:38 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

My GP can't see me until tomorrow

Is there someone else in your doctor's office who could see you today? (I have no idea if this is urgent enough to see a doctor today; I'm just commenting on that issue.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:22 PM on September 23, 2013

Is there a phone number where you could call your insurance and see if they would pre-authorize an ER visit? That might cut down on co-pays--I know my insurance charges an automatic $100 fee if I don't get pre-authorized (which I never remember to do, because I'm *having an emergency*!)
posted by epj at 5:38 PM on September 23, 2013

Hi all, thanks for your help. I called my insurance nurse hotline and she told me to call 911. Instead, I went to an urgent care clinic. My blood pressure was higher than usual but the doctor I saw said she thinks I have fluid in my ears which makes me feel dizzy. I asked for an EKG which was normal. I have an appointment with my GP tomorrow, might cancel. And I just did 50 minutes of yoga without incident so I'm cautiously optimistic. Thanks again, if you have other thoughts or ideas, I'll be checking this occasionally.
posted by kat518 at 5:57 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is there a chance you might be pregnant?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:33 PM on September 23, 2013

I have an IUD and my cycle started a few days ago. So possible but pretty unlikely.
posted by kat518 at 7:04 PM on September 23, 2013

I have an appointment with my GP tomorrow, might cancel.

Really, don't do that. See your doctor.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:15 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Now that you've gotten yourself checked out for more serious problems (I think?), since that's definitely the first thing to rule out, I feel more comfortable saying that I've experienced a similar reaction occasionally from:

1) dehydration and/or hot or humid weather
2) coming down with something - flu, sore throat, etc
3) not enough sleep and/or crappy diet in the last day or two
4) eating something slightly sketchy/that I don't digest well (or hungover, ha)

Sleep is the usual culprit for me, although I see that you got a lot of sleep on the weekend, so maybe that's not it for you.
posted by randomnity at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2013

If the clinic wasn't even going to do an EKG until you asked them, I think you must have really downplayed your symptoms. I don't see how having an ear effusion explains you being short of breath.

Do not downplay your symptoms. Do not apologize for being there. Do not say things like "I'm sure it's nothing, but..." or try to explain away your symptoms by saying "I'm probably just anxious." You are biasing the providers and (no offense to midlevel providers) the people who staff urgent care clinics are particularly susceptible to being fooled by people who act like what they have is nothing and who think they have an explanation for everything.

If you say "I felt faint and short of breath with exertion," either someone will take you seriously, or you should see someone else. IANYD/TINMA.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:12 AM on September 24, 2013

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