Why can’t your doctor tell what’s wrong with you?

February 10, 2014

doctorPeople believe that diagnosis is the cornerstone of medical care. You go to a doctor, who diagnoses your problem and prescribes a treatment that makes you well. What if the process gets stuck at the initial diagnostic stage? We have a fantasy that as soon as we describe our symptoms, the doctor will know what is wrong with us. The reality can be much more complicated.

In most cases, by relying on our symptoms, medical history and test results, doctors are able to figure out our problems. Physicians typically look for common scenarios.  People with rare diseases or unusual conditions can fall through the cracks.

If that’s your situation, don’t give up. It’s essential that you persistently advocate for yourself. One way to do that is to actively help your doctors find the correct diagnosis.

Five steps that will help.

Step 1 Do Your Homework
The more information your doctor has, the better he’ll be able to treat you. Prior to your doctor visit, keep a pad of paper handy and jot down your symptoms as they occur so you can read the list to your physician. In addition, do a little digging on the Web, spending time on reputable medical sites. To gain insight into how your symptoms might fit together. For instance, you may have gotten so accustomed to feeling thirsty all the time that you didn’t even think to bring it up during your last visit. But if an online check reveals that the symptoms you did plan to mention—fatigue and headaches—often go along with increased thirst in diabetics, then you’ll realize you should be telling the doctor how frequently you need a drink of water.

And make sure to tell your physician about conditions your relatives have suffered from. Rare diseases often go undiagnosed, but if your doctor knows that one runs in your family, he will be much more likely to consider it a possibility.

Step 2 Prod Your Doctor
When symptoms don’t add up to an easy diagnosis, physicians sometimes suggest that an ailment is psychological or stress related. But don’t let your doctor dismiss your complaints so quickly. For example, Lyme disease, which sometimes surfaces in the form of vague and ordinary symptoms.

Step 3 Take a Break
If your doctor has run important tests and ruled out serious conditions but still hasn’t determined what’s wrong with you, it may be time for a beak. You don’t want to push your doctor into giving you drugs or other treatments that may not be appropriate and make the situation worse. Give yourself a reasonable time frame that you and your Doctor can agree upon to see if your body can heal itself.

Step 4 Call in the Experts
If you’ve followed the advice above and haven’t made any progress, it’s time to seek out a specialist.  A physician in a specialty related to your concerns.

It’s especially important to seek this top level of expertise once you’ve seen and stumped other doctors.

Step 5 Be Prepared for a Diagnosis to be Wrong
Sometimes the problem isn’t that you’re unable to get a diagnosis but that you’ve received an inaccurate one. Mistakes are not uncommon. If your treatment isn’t making you feel better, don’t immediately look for other therapies. Confirm that your doctor got the diagnosis right in the first place. The worst that can happen is that your doctor may feel annoyed.

Keep in mind that it is your health and your body. Most diagnosis is based on elimination of conditions.  Your doctor will often try to find out what your condition isn’t before he can determine what it is.  It is your choice how far you go with this. Keep in mind that some ailments can never be properly determined, but this process will at least get you and keep you on track.