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Preventing common medical misdiagnoses

Studies about incorrect medical diagnoses show that doctors can make mistakes about life-threatening conditions, and one study indicated that 12 million or more misdiagnoses may occur every year. The Internet Journal of Family Practice conducted an analysis of autopsy findings and malpractice data to determine the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases. While this list is not likely to solve any mysterious medical problems Arizona residents are suffering from, it highlights the need for getting opinions from multiple doctors.

Even a lay person could probably list some signs of heart attacks, but not all patients show the common symptoms like chest pain or collapsing. A heart attack may be mistaken for heartburn, nervousness, bronchitis or gallstones. Parkinson's disease can also be mistaken for other conditions because no lab tests diagnose this disorder, and the balance problems associated with this disease can lead doctors to think of stress, Alzheimer's or a traumatic head injury.

Some ailments are overlooked when symptoms can indicate several conditions, and a doctor might think a less-serious illness is more likely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 600,000 people die every year in the United States due to heart disease, but symptoms like fatigue, nausea, backache, coughing and indigestion might not be obvious enough to make doctors think of a cardiovascular problem. Other common misdiagnosed illnesses include depression, infection, lupus and blood clots in the lungs.

Doctors are not perfect, and medical errors can occur. If something does not feel right, patients can ask for other possible diagnoses, request tests or ask for a second opinion. A misdiagnosis can prolong painful symptoms or make a condition worse, and those who suffered because of doctor errors may be able to receive compensation through the pursuit of a medical malpractice claim.

Source: Mother Nature Network, "12 illnesses that are commonly misdiagnosed", Melissa Breyer, July 18, 2014

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