Some symptoms you can ignore, while others need attention, discovers Charmaine Yabsley.

They’re the bodily problems you put up with and wish would go away irregular periods, lumpy breasts or maybe a nagging itch. You worry about it but put off seeing your doctor. Here we help you decide when you should see your GP.

Lumpy breasts

It’s most probably: your hormones

“Women should become familiar with the normal feel of their breasts and may find they are lumpy at certain times in their menstrual cycle,” says Cancer Council Australia’s chief executive Professor Ian Olver. If you are worried, seek medical advice. “Often breasts that feel lumpy and sore all over for a short time each month are related to hormonal issues. However, look out for any specific lumps that persist or stand out from the breast tissue.”

When to see your GP

Get checked out “if you notice any new lumps or thickening in the breast or under the arm”, says Olver. Look out for nipple sores or discharge or turning in, dimpling of the skin around the breast, a rash or red, swollen breasts. It’s recommend that all women aged over 50 get mammograms every two years. “Remember, early detection puts you in the best position for effective treatment,” he says.

Blurred vision

It’s most probably: nothing serious

“If you’re long- or short-sighted, or have an astigmatism, then blurred vision is normal,” says Shirley Loh, national professional services manager for the Optometrists Association Australia. Slight blurriness can also be due to tiredness or eye strain. Even if you don’t have eye problems, you should still visit your optometrist every two years. “If you’re older than 40 years of age, eye tests are essential to differentiate between blurred vision caused by normal ageing, or the first signs of eye disease.”

When to see your optometrist

If blurred vision occurs suddenly, or you spontaneously lose sight in one or both eyes, go to the hospital immediately, or call your optometrist to organise an emergency referral to an ophthalmologist.

“This blurriness may be a retinal detachment, where the film at the back of the eye, which collects the light and transmits this to the brain, has come away,” says Loh. “If this detaches from the back of the eyeball, it is a real emergency and you have a very limited window for treatment.” This tends to happen after an injury or blow to the head or eye area, or may be more likely to occur to those who are short-sighted. “In a worst-case scenario, sudden blurriness may be a stroke of the eye, which can be a sign of a heart attack, so again, seek medical help immediately.”

Blocked ears

It’s most probably: Your desk job

“If you sit in front of a computer all day, the myofascial structures in the front of your neck are shortening due to your head and shoulder posture,” says osteopath Mark Papallo. “Myofascial structures are the tubular-like muscles you can see if you poke your head forward.” These structures in the neck and head have intimate relationships with the blood vessels, lymphatics and ganglia serving the ear. “When you sit with your head and shoulders slightly jutting forward, your ears will not be able to drain properly and limit the ability of your lymphatic system to work properly.” Stress can also affect the fluid drainage of your inner ear system.

When to see your GP

“When the blocked symptom persists or is accompanied by earache, fever, vertigo, marked hearing loss or other signs or symptoms, visit your doctor for a check-up,” says Papallo.