5 Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Health Problems
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Studies show that misdiagnoses are a leading cause of medical malpractice. Shockingly, a recent report states that as many as 12 million Americans may be the victim of a misdiagnosis at some point in their lives.
When a doctor misses an important symptom or diagnoses someone with the wrong condition, a patient can experience serious consequences. For example, the wrong medication can lead to escalating health problems. In other cases, a patient misses the opportunity to treat a disease in its early stages, forcing the patient to undergo more invasive or dangerous procedures down the road, or depriving them of an opportunity for a cure.
It’s possible for doctors to miss just about any health condition, but some are more likely to be misdiagnosed than others. Here are five of the most commonly misdiagnosed health problems that are leading causes of medical malpractice claims.
1. Heart Attacks
Because heart attacks can produce symptoms that appear in other health conditions, doctors can sometimes misdiagnose a heart attack as a less serious problem. The danger is that heart attacks can result in death very quickly if not treated promptly.
Experts say there is also a real danger of doctors dismissing heart attack symptoms in younger people, as they often assume that a young person’s chest pain is something minor like indigestion or anxiety. According to Everyday Health, doctors can also miss heart attacks in women, as women are less likely to experience typical heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain. Physicians have an obligation to make sure that a patient with chest pain is not suffering from a heart attack or other life threatening condition before diagnosing a less serious condition.
The Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that doctors misdiagnose cancer about 28 percent of the time. For certain types of cancer, doctors fail to properly diagnose up to 44 percent of the time. Some cancers including lymphoma, breast cancer, sarcomas, and melanomas are more prone to misdiagnosis than others.
In some cases, doctors misdiagnose a patient by failing to gather enough information. In other cases, doctors are too busy and don’t give patients enough time to explain their symptoms and concerns. Doctors can also misdiagnose cancer because they don’t take the time necessary to put together a complete medical history for a patient.
While people don’t always think of depression as a “health condition,” it is, in fact, a potentially serious health problem as well as a top area of misdiagnosis. Experts say that diagnosing depression requires both a physical exam and a mental health evaluation and that doctors often miss one or the other when evaluating a patient. When doctors fail to diagnose depression or don’t take its symptoms seriously, they can put a patient at a higher risk of suicide.
The American Heart Association says that young people are especially at risk of being misdiagnosed when they seek help for stroke symptoms. In many cases, doctors misdiagnose stroke patients with less serious health conditions, such as migraines, vertigo, or even too much alcohol. There is a narrow window of time for the emergency treatment of most types of stroke with “clotbuster” medication, so the failure to make the diagnosis in a timely fashion can lead to permanent paralysis, brain damage or death.
5. Celiac Disease
According to one expert, an astonishing 83 percent of people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed. Part of the reason why doctors misdiagnose celiac disease so often is the wide variety of symptoms it can produce. When doctors confuse these symptoms with other health problems, celiac disease patients can suffer for years without any relief.
Protecting Yourself Against Misdiagnosis
People see doctors because they want an expert’s opinion on their health. As a patient, there are several things you can do to protect yourself against misdiagnosis.
- Ask questions – Don’t be afraid to question your doctor. Many people revere doctors and feel nervous about speaking up when they feel anxious or if something doesn’t seem quite right. When your health and perhaps even your life is on the line, it’s always acceptable to ask questions.
- Get a second opinion – If you feel like your doctor isn’t providing adequate care, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion, or maybe even a third opinion. Choosing a doctor you trust is especially important if you’re undergoing surgery, or if you suspect that you are suffering from a serious health condition.
- Take your time – It’s an unfortunate reality that doctors typically have more patients than they can handle. However, a doctor shouldn’t rush you through your appointment. If your doctor seems too busy to give you the time of day, you can try simply asking him or her to slow down. Many doctors are busy and may not even realize how brisk they come across to patients. Sometimes, all it takes is a patient speaking up and requesting a little more time from their health care provider.
If you believe you have been misdiagnosed by a doctor in New York, you should contact an experienced NYC medical malpractice lawyer today. A delay could affect your ability to be fairly compensated in New York State. That’s why it’s critical you contact New York misdiagnosis attorney Jonathan C. Reiter as soon as possible.
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Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved