When you’re sick, you experience various symptoms that affect you both physically and mentally. In common illnesses, we usually know which symptoms to expect and what diagnosis our doctor will provide, but in less common cases, we may find ourselves confused and frustrated. When going to see a physician, we usually get a clear-cut diagnosis, but when the same disease manifests differently in some people it can make it difficult to identify, resulting in a wrong diagnosis. At times, the wrong diagnosis can be minor, but at other times it can be very dangerous.
Below you will find the 10 most common misdiagnosed medical conditions, so if your symptoms persist despite being treated, you may want to get a second opinion. It's also important to remember that if there’s a significant change in your condition, you should contact your doctor immediately.
1. Diabetes Distress
Misdiagnosed as: Depression
People dealing with diabetes can often experience stress as a result of the strict diet, medical treatments, and constant need for medical checkups. Many physicians treat this stress as depression, referring their patients to psychological treatments or recommending that they take antidepressants.
A recent medical study with 750 participants found that 45% of patients who need insulin shots, developed depression-like symptoms. However, after a period of adjustment, the symptoms subsided. This phenomenon is known as “Diabetes Distress”, and researchers believe that the mental changes are a result of the changes in glucose levels in patients, and not a mental issue that requires medication.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Misdiagnosed as: Attention Deficit Disorder
Nowadays, when children behave differently than is expected at school, they are often diagnosed as suffering from ADD / ADHD. When a child scribbles in their notebook instead of listening to the teacher, they may do it because they find it difficult to listen to the teacher, but it can also be a manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
An incorrect diagnosis can lead to incorrect treatment, which ends up damaging the child in the long run. A kid with ADD will be prescribed Ritalin to stay focused, but if they have OCD, Ritalin can exacerbate their condition.
3. Lactose Intolerance
Misdiagnosed as: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS symptoms include stomachaches, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and more. Physicians will usually diagnose IBS after listening to the patient’s complaints, and after running some tests to rule out other conditions. However, since the tests performed are meant to rule out certain conditions, they may lead to a misdiagnosis.
One of the most common issues that is misdiagnosed is lactose intolerance, which some doctors mistake for IBS. The reason is that part of the diagnosis process of IBS requires the patient to avoid dairy, but the duration is often too short and thus – non-indicative. The test that discovers lactose intolerance is a simple blow test, which your family physician can request.
Misdiagnosed as: Migraine
Migraines are often accompanied by visual hallucinations, such as spots or flashes of light. In other cases the hallucinations are sensual, and manifest in tingling sensations throughout the body. These sort of symptoms can also appear in cases of a stroke, as both conditions are caused by a reduced supply of blood to the brain. One of the first indicators that your condition is a stroke is based on how rapidly the symptoms manifest - migraine symptoms appear more slowly than stroke symptoms.
People who suffer from migraines are at a higher risk of suffering from a stroke, as well as people who smoke, have high blood pressure, or high levels of cholesterol in their system. If you fear you’re experiencing a stroke, try smiling, raising your arms, and even sticking out your tongue. If these simple actions are difficult or impossible to perform, get medical attention as soon as possible.
5. Ovarian Cancer
Misdiagnosed as: Celiac disease or bladder infection
Ovarian cancer is commonly known as “the silent killer” because it's asymptomatic or shows very mild symptoms in its early stages. The most common symptoms women experience are bloating and stomachaches, leading doctors to believe it’s celiac.
If the symptoms are accompanied by frequent urination, your doctor may accidentally diagnose it as a bladder infection. Since both diagnoses can be verified through simple tests, it is recommended that you insist on taking them, and not count on your gut feeling. In addition, women should visit an OBGYN regularly, and report any changes in how they feel.
Misdiagnosed as: A cold
You may think that appendicitis is an easy condition to diagnose, but it isn’t always the case. In most cases, patients will experience sharp pains and sensitivity in their naval area and peritoneum, while some will experience nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and a fever, but will have a hard time pinpointing a specific source of pain. This situation can lead some doctors to think that it is the result of a cold or dehydration, and thus delaying the correct diagnosis.
Misdiagnosed as: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Fibromyalgia is a condition where the patient suffers from pain in their muscles and bones, but doctors cannot locate the source of these symptoms. Many fibromyalgia patients will suffer from pain in the stomach region, leading them to turn to a gastroenterologist. Since IBS is diagnosed by eliminating external factors, these patients are at risk of being misdiagnosed as suffering from IBS.
8. Rheumatoid arthritis
Misdiagnosed as: Chronic lethargy
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects 1% of the population. In its later stages it damages the joints, twisting and eventually destroying them. While some patients will experience swelling and pain in the joints, others may only exhibit lethargy and general weakness, making a correct diagnosis much more difficult.
It's imperative to diagnose this condition as early as possible to minimize and prevent further damage to the joints. If you’re suffering from unexplained lethargy or weakness for a prolonged period of time, pay attention to any sort of inflammation symptoms, and contact your physician to get tested as soon as possible.
9. Acute Upper Airways Obstruction (UAO)
Misdiagnosed as: Asthma
Wheezing and difficulty in breathing may lead some doctors to diagnose an acute upper airways obstruction as an asthmatic episode, especially in children. These symptoms can also appear in cases of malformed vocal chords, cystic fibrosis, enlarged lymph nodes, inflamed sinuses, and more. The most common cause, however, is upper airways obstruction, which can be a symptom of edema, or the result of trauma. If UAO is the possible diagnosis, a simple x-ray will reveal whether or not the airways are indeed obstructed.
Misdiagnosed as: Alzheimer’s / Memory loss
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid’s functions are below normal, leading it to produce fewer hormones that control weight gain, energy levels, and mood. Since the relevant hormones have many vital functions, the initial symptoms may be general weakness, lethargy, and memory problems – common symptoms in several conditions. In addition, hypothyroidism is more prevalent in women over the age of 60, causing some doctors to mistake it for memory issues or Alzheimer’s.