There’s a reason companies, like IBM and Google, want to get into the medical diagnosis business: humans are pretty bad at it. Data suggests that around 10 percent of patients are given a false negative, meaning that they do have a particular disease, but the doctor doesn’t think that they do.
Some diseases are more challenging to diagnose than others and have a higher rate of either false negatives or misdiagnosis where the doctor believes that you have another condition which you don’t.
Check out the following commonly misdiagnosed conditions. Do any of them affect you?
Stroke is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition where the blood supply is cut off from tissues in the brain. It can lead to numbness, paralysis, inability to control one’s actions, and death if severe.
But strokes are also one of the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses. The problem is that for many people, especially young people, the symptoms of stroke are similar to those of other common and less harmful conditions. Many young stroke sufferers are often told that they have a bad migraine or that they were merely intoxicated.
Stroke is a severe condition, and if you require help to walk or speak, then seek medical attention immediately.
Lyme disease has been in the news a lot recently, and for a good reason. It ruins people’s lives, yet the medical profession is still to catch up to this crippling condition.
Lyme disease is caused when ticks carrying the disease bite through the skin and infect the bloodstream. The symptoms of the disease are often quite generalized and diffuse, meaning that it is hard to tell the difference between Lyme disease and other common conditions, such as chronic fatigue.
Data from the Lyme Disease Association suggests that the average patient suffers from the disease for fourteen months before receiving medical treatment. Symptoms include stiffness, rashes, joint pain, and high temperature. But it’s rare that all of these symptoms appear together which leads to confusion among doctors.
Fibromyalgia is a condition which affects both muscles and joints. Although sufferers can have the disease for years, it is only recently that the condition has been well-defined.
One of the reasons so many people contact a medical malpractice attorney is because their fibromyalgia is often mistaken for something else. It is similar to other diseases of the joints, including arthritis and lupus. Older patients especially are told that they have one of these better-known diseases, rather than the more generalized and tricky-to-identify fibro.
If you are a woman in middle age and your muscles are sore, you struggle to sleep, and you suffer from anxiety, fibromyalgia may be at the root of your problems.
The thyroid is a small gland that sits at the base of the neck. It’s responsible for the production of the hormone thyroxine. Thyroxine needs to be produced in the right amount for the body to remain healthy. But often either too much or too little is produced.
When this happens, it can throw the body’s natural metabolic machinery out of whack. Thyroid disease sufferers begin to experience fatigue, a lack of energy, and depression. Again, these are very general symptoms, and many doctors will mistake these symptoms for clinical depression and prescribe antidepressants.
Pulmonary embolism occurs when the arteries which supply the lungs with blood become blocked. These embolisms rarely cause heart attacks. However, they do prevent vital oxygen from getting to tissues in the lung, causing chest pain and trouble breathing.
Pulmonary embolisms are most common among older adults. But because the symptoms are very similar to pneumonia, they are often misdiagnosed. According to a study by researchers writing in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2013, more than 33 percent of patients with the disease were sent home without treatment and had delayed diagnosis.
The paper said that the symptoms of pulmonary embolism are less severe than other types of embolism, and so doctors find it easier to dismiss patient complaints.
Celiac disease is a condition that affects about 1 to 2 percent of the population. A genetic mutation causes the condition which precipitates a violent allergic reaction to gluten, a type of protein found in wheat and other grains. Celiacs need to avoid gluten-containing foods to be healthy. But according to the data, about 83 percent of people with the condition remain undiagnosed.
The reason for this is simple: doctors are far more likely to believe that their stomach complaints are caused by irritable bowel syndrome, a far more common condition. People with celiac suffer from similar episodes as those with IBS, including the need to go to the toilet frequently, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Working out whether somebody does indeed have depression is actually a somewhat convoluted process. It’s not enough to just ask them questions about how they feel: it requires an in-depth look at their medical history, as well as a medical exam, according to Dick Shadick at Pace University of New York City. The problem, however, is that most doctors don’t have the time to investigate each patient to the depth required. The result is patients that are misdiagnosed.
Often they are told that they have attention-deficit disorder, anxiety, irritability, bipolar disorder, or something else. A misdiagnosis like this can lead to the wrong treatment and worsening of the depression symptoms.
Right now, technologists at some of the world’s biggest companies are looking for ways to improve cancer diagnosis. Since it is one of the most feared diseases, diagnoses need to be correct.
The problem is that diagnoses are often incorrect, a shockingly high percentage of the time. Research in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that misdiagnosis occur more than 28 percent of the time. And for some types of cancer, it can be as high as 44 percent.
High rates of misdiagnosis are caused by poor medical techniques, a lack of experience of diagnosticians, and lack of access to patient records. The costs of these misdiagnosed for patients and their families can be enormous.