12 Diseases Doctors Most Often Misdiagnose


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Wouldn’t it be nice if every time we felt sick, we got some tests done and we knew what was wrong on the first try? The body, unfortunately, doesn’t always work that way and can send mixed signals that doctors have trouble reading. One out of four adults in the U.S. – or 12 million people – are misdiagnosed every year, according to a study looking into people who seek outpatient care. The overall annual rate of misdiagnoses in the country is 5.08 percent.

Researchers from JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed 200,000 appointments and found 190 diagnostic errors. One-third of them had the potential to cause serious harm.[slideshow:81934]

The reasons for the mistakes vary from rare diseases to symptoms that are too common and “could be anything.” Drastic weight loss may be due to stress, thyroid problem, celiac disease, or cystic fibrosis – all very different conditions.

If you are sweating and feel lightheaded for no apparent reason, you may have a blood clot in your lungs. But would you think it could be that serious? One in three doctors won’t make the connection either. A meta-analysis of autopsy and malpractice data in 2008 showed that there are between 60,000 and 200,000 deaths from pulmonary emboli a year, which is more than from AIDS, lung cancer and car accidents put together.

Some of the problems that lead to misdiagnoses have to do with ordering the wrong tests, not disclosing all of the your medical history doctors may need to better understand what the health issue may be, and mistakes made by physicians reading test results.

Medical professionals are right more often than not, but sometimes certain conditions are harder to pin down that others.


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Is it the winter blues, is it stress or is it clinical depression? One in four patients has the “wrong” condition after seeing a professional, according to a study. Symptoms are feelings people experience every day – sadness, unease, worry, and bad temper. Many patients feel tired all the time (how many times have you said that about yourself this week alone?), can’t fall asleep or sleep all the time. And if the multiple symptoms are not enough, they can be of several other conditions as well – bipolar disorder or PTSD.


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Sometimes numbers lie. According to the same 2008 study, acute infections were the most misdiagnosed condition. There are thousands of infections – a lot more than common diseases – getting them wrong is not uncommon.


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Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by pain and tenderness throughout the body. Your muscles hurt; you feel tired, anxious and can’t sleep. Many general practitioners will first consider this is all caused by arthritis or chronic fatigue symptom. People who suffer from fibromyalgia often have a family history of the illness. There are no lab tests to show evidence of the condition. Diagnosing this condition also may depend on what kind of doctor you see: If you go to a gastroenterologist, he or she may conclude that you have irritable bowel syndrome.  

Click here for the other 9 diseases that doctors often misdoagnose

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