Spotting the Signs of Conditions and Illnesses

Updated on November 7, 2018

Although advancements in medical technology have came a long way, there are still a variety of conditions and illnesses which can prove very detrimental to our health. However, many have telltale signs that can be detected early to either stop the process before it damages our health too much or at the very least slow its effects. In this guide, straight stairlifts provider, Acorn Stairlifts, advises how to spot the signs of a number of different conditions:


Arthritis refers to the breakdown of the tissue found inside the joints, with the result being inflammation, pain and restricted movement of the area of the body concerned — as well as the apparent weakness within the joints affected. An estimated ten million people suffer from arthritis in the UK, according to the NHS, with individuals of all ages affected.

Although there is no known cure for arthritis, there are various dietary changes you can make and lifestyle hobbies to pick up that can help relieve the pain.

Telltale signs to look out for of arthritis include if someone is feeling unusually fatigued. This is sometimes accompanied by a general feeling of ill health, as well as stiffness in the morning that can last for a few minutes or even several hours. Be aware of stiffness and/or in one or more of the body’s smaller joints too, and mild inflammation of the joints concerned. This inflammation may also cause surrounding tendons and ligaments to become unstable or deformed, meaning that the range of motion is decreased, while pain and inflammation of the joints may be accompanied by a low-grade fever.

For information and support with regard to arthritis, take a look at the NHS’s advice about living with arthritis and Arthritis Care’s managing arthritis guide.


Dementia refers to a variety of brain disorders which trigger a loss of brain function, with the conditions often progressive but eventually severe. Around 850,000 people are suffering from dementia in the UK currently, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, but the organisation goes on to state that 225,000 individuals will develop dementia this year alone — that works out at one new case every three minutes.

It’s important to stress that, while there is no cure for any type of dementia currently, the number of deaths from the condition would be halved if the onset of dementia was delayed by five years.

Dementia can affect people in different ways, although one of the common early symptoms to watch out for include someone experiencing lapses of memory loss or having difficulty concentrating. A person may also find it difficult to carry out daily tasks that they are familiar with — getting confused when trying to sort out the correct change when shopping, for instance — and struggle to either follow a conversation or find the right word when speaking to someone. Look out for individuals being confused about the time and the place where they are too, as well as mood changes.

It’s important to look into the symptoms specific to Alzheimer’s disease as well, as this is the most common cause of dementia that affects 62 per cent of all of those diagnosed with dementia.

Signs to be aware of in relation to Alzheimer’s disease include people repetitively asking questions, having problems with their memory — they may regularly forget names, faces or events which have only recently occurred, for example — and becoming confused when they are in environments that they aren’t familiar with. Other common symptoms include a person encountering increasing difficulty completing tasks or getting involved in activities which require planning or organisation, as well as if they become more anxious or withdrawn.

If you believe that someone you know exhibits any signs related to Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia, you can find dementia information and support services from the NHS.

Breast cancer

This is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with well over 50,000 cases recorded by Cancer Research UK during 2015 alone. While it is most common in women, it’s not uncommon for men to be diagnosed with breast cancer, too.

Although the most common, breast cancer can be treated before it spreads to other parts of the body if it is detected and treat for early on. Surgery is often the first type of treatment for the disease, followed by radiotherapy, chemotherapy or, in some instances, either biological or hormone treatments.

One of the first and most obvious signs of onset breast cancer is often an unusual lump or thickened tissue around one or both of the breasts. It’s important to underline that many lumps around the breast will not be cancerous, but it’s wise to get any checked by a doctor if detected.

Other signs to be wary of include if one or both breasts go through a change in their size or shape, if there’s pain around the breasts or if there’s dimpling on the skin of the breasts. Observe the nipples of the breasts too. Discharge from either nipple (which might be streaked with blood), a rash on or around the nipple or the appearance of the nipple changing — perhaps becoming sunken into the breast — can all be symptoms of breast cancer. Another potential sign of this disease is a lump or swelling in either of the armpits.

If you are worried that your body has shown any of these symptoms, check out Cancer Research UK’s guide on seeing the doctor to spot cancer early.


Osteoporosis is a condition that develops gradually over time and is a weakening of the bones, with more than three million people throughout the UK affected and over 500,000 individuals needing hospital treatment each year for fragility fractures.

There are three main signs to be aware of when it comes to osteoporosis:

  1. Multiple osteoporotic fractures in the spine can cause the back to lose its normal curvature — the result being a stooped back developing and a loss of height being witnessed as the vertebral bones in the spin begin to weaken and collapse.
  2. Sudden or intense back pain being suffered without warning or from doing something small, such as bending over to tie a shoelace.
  3. Fractures being suffered after having what at first seemed like a minor incident, such as slipping on the pavement or even making a sudden movement.

Read the NHS’s guide on treatment options for osteoporosis if you have concerns about this condition.


Diabetes is a condition that is caused due to the pancreas being unable to produce enough insulin. The number of people currently diagnosed with diabetes in the UK is estimated by to be 3.5 million, with older members of society susceptible to developing the condition as their bodies change when they age.

Early diagnosis, treatment and effective control of diabetes are important when it comes to maintaining good health, as this will reduce the risk of the body developing serious complications.

The common symptoms associated with diabetes include someone being really thirsty, losing weight when they aren’t trying to, going to the toilet on frequent occasions — especially during the night — and feeling more tired than they usually would. Also, take note if any cuts and wounds take much longer to heal, if blurred vision is experienced and if genital itching or thrush is encountered.

Concerned that someone you know is showing signs of diabetes? Diabetes UK advises that a local GP should be contacted and also has a guide on the diabetes treatments available.

There are obviously many more conditions which we could have covered in this guide. However, hopefully the advice provided will help to keep loved ones healthy and also highlight how spotting signs and symptoms early can prove very beneficial.

Prostate cancer

Second common to breast cancer, but the most common form of cancer in men across the nation. Cancer Research UK recorded close to 50,000 new cases of prostate cancer throughout 2015 alone.

However, treatment is not instantly necessary for many men who have prostate cancer. A doctor may suggest either ‘active surveillance’ or ‘watchful waiting’ if the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms to appear, though some cases of the disease can be treated if spotted in the early stages — such as via radiotherapy (either standalone or alongside hormone therapy) or by surgically removing the prostate.

Another thing to take note of when it comes to prostate cancer is that most men won’t have any signs or symptoms during the early stages of the disease. This is due to the way the cancer grows.

Initial symptoms will often only be seen if the cancer grows near the urethra — this being the tube in a male’s body that he urinates through — as the cancerous growth may press against it and change the way that someone urinates. Possible changes to be aware of include if it becomes difficult to start urinating or empty the bladder, if there’s a weak flow when urinating or if it feels that the bladder has not properly emptied after urinating. Also look out for dribbling urine after urinating has finished, as well as if someone has the sudden urge to urinate or if they appear to urinate more often — especially during the night.

However, changes in the way someone urinates is more likely to be associated with the non-cancerous problem of an enlarged prostate, or another health issue completely. No matter what though, it’s wise to see a doctor if any of the above changes are detected.

Often, prostate cancer will begin to grow in a different part of the prostate. However, should the cancer break out of the gland or spread to other parts of the body, signs which could indicate this has happened include pain in the hips, pelvis or back, blood being evident in either semen or urine, weight loss that can’t be explained, and issues with either getting or keeping an erection.

If you’re concerned that you may have prostate cancer or another problem with your prostate gland, read Prostate Cancer UK’s advice on prostate tests to find out how these procedures should be able to help.


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