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The Most Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions In Scientific History
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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Truly, this has to be one of the most difficult conditions for any doctor to diagnose. We all get tired, and pretty much any sickness or long-term disorder can cause people to feel like they are fatigued all the time. For doctors to diagnose this, they have to likely rule out a ton of things. Thus, this is easily one of the most misdiagnosed medical conditions in the world. Those who show fatigue for over six months, with sleep never improving the problem, likely have it.

Yet feeling tired isn’t the only problem. You could also experience sleep problems and pain. When the body feels tired, it tends to feel pain it otherwise would not. While women seem to deal with this far more than men, there is no root cause for it. Some psychologists have assumed that environmental factors could be to blame. Yet medical doctors often feel there is a genetic component. Things like fibromyalgia can mirror CFS, among other conditions. Therefore, it can take quite a while to diagnose people with it. This could be why as many as 90% are misdiagnosed who have it.

The Most Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions In Scientific History
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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Anyone currently dealing with rheumatoid arthritis will likely tell you how long it took for them to finally be diagnosed. It is technically an autoimmune disorder but operates a bit differently compared to others. Like them, the body seems to misunderstand what is going on inside of it. Thus, the immune system will attack its own tissue and joints. In some of the worst cases, RA will even attack internal organs. People with RA will have painful swelling, as it affects the joint linings. Long-term, the inflammation caused by RA will cause bone erosion and even deformity of the joints.

Medication exists to help those with RA manage the symptoms, but there is no cure as of this writing. A lot of doctors misdiagnose it for other issues like fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, simple arthritis, and much more. In a study conducted using data from the Columbia Medical Center regarding 4,780 patients, 1,875 were misdiagnosed. This is just shy of 40% of those patients. Among them, 26.5% were men while 73.5% were women. This proves RA seems to be harder to diagnose among women. Regardless of who, it is clearly one of the most misdiagnosed medical conditions currently.

The Most Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions In Scientific History
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Depression

To be fair to doctors, properly diagnosing depression is far better than it used to be. We now know more signs of chronic depression, and we can even do bloodwork to check for problems related to depression. Seratonin levels tend to be low among most with regular, chronic depression. Yet that is not uniform, as some might have it without this. On top of that, most doctors (even in family medicine) do not tend to ask about a person’s mood when they come in for a visit.

Without this knowledge, doctors could be missing something quite important. On top of this, physical problems can come from depression, such as fatigue, headaches, bodily pain, as well as stuff like loss of appetite. Some might also have stress or anxiety issues, making doctors erroneously assume these are the prime issues and not depression. Plus, there are various levels of depression that are not always easy to identify. Thankfully, errors like this are being fixed in the medical community.

The Most Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions In Scientific History
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Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that gets lodged within one or both lungs. It will block off blood flow and oxygen, putting the person at risk for long-term damage and even possible death. Usually, the cause for this comes from deep vein thrombosis breaking free from a blood clot in the leg. The thing is, a lot of the symptoms of this ordeal seem to mirror those of possible heart problems. Shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, etc. are all heart condition issues too.

Since the blood clot originally begins in the leg, you will likely experience leg pain and swelling well beforehand. This is good for doctors to take a look at alone, so it could save your life to get it checked out before the pulmonary embolism issue even becomes an issue. Without this aid, to begin with, at least 1 in 3 cases of PE are missed. The medical community does need to be better but we can do better as patients by alerting them to things like that leg issue we referenced.

The Most Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions In Scientific History
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Lupus

If you ask Dr. Greg House, it is NEVER lupus. This is a running joke in the House television show because lupus has been known to be given as a possible diagnosis for several things. Yet, for some reason, it is missed quite often among those who actually have it. Lupus tends to present like several other autoimmune disorders. Usually, those who have it will have a lot of inflammation in their body that will cause joint pain. The severity differs among all who have it. Lupus can also do damage to the kidneys, lungs, and even the heart. Most who have it will tend to have a butterfly-shaped rash on their face cheeks.

That makes one wonder, with such a sign, how is this one of the most misdiagnosed medical conditions? It is possibly due to not noticing the cheeks, but also assuming it is caused by something else. In a study conducted by the Lupus Foundation of America, roughly 46.5% of people with lupus are misdiagnosed. In their study, they found that over 50% were told that nothing was physically wrong with them, and it was all in their mind. Thus, a possible psychological condition. That is weird to hear too, as x-rays and blood tests could give those doctors a reason to second guess that assumption.

The Most Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions In Scientific History
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Borderline Personality Disorder

We wish we could tell you an accurate, exact number of those that are currently misdiagnosed yet have this condition. Yet one of the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder is that many do not realize that they have it at all. Many are diagnosed with other mental disorders more often first. Usually, something like bipolar disorder presents in almost the exact same way with a few exceptions. Of course, bipolar disorder mostly affects your mood, causing sometimes wild swings between them. Yet BPD affects how you think and feel about yourself as well as others.

This causes a huge problem that can make one have self-image problems, emotional issues, unstable relationships, and behavioral challenges. Mood issues can make one think bad about themselves too. Both even cause depression and anxiety issues. Thus, it is easy to confuse them. Several studies have been conducted on BPD, but most tend to find that roughly 40% of people were misdiagnosed at some point in their life. However, as high as 10% of the general population are misdiagnosed with BPD when they do not have it.

The Most Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions In Scientific History
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Cancer

To be fair to doctors, it is clear that assuming cancer the moment you see a patient is idiotic and terrible for any doctor to think at first. Unless someone has an obvious tumor or something that pops up on a scan, you need a lot of tests to confirm cancer for people. This is why doctors, especially family medicine or urgent care medical professionals, will likely treat the symptoms you’re experiencing. A lot of the issues cancer causes can mask as viruses or bacterial infections.

For example, bladder cancer might present as a standard UTI at first. Yet even if you get past this stage, and see a cancer specialist known as an Oncologist, misdiagnoses happen. According to a 2012 study by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, roughly 44% of the time, these doctors will misdiagnose the type of cancer you might have. Yet normal doctors will rarely think cancer-first like oncologists. They’ll assume a sinus infection rather than brain cancer.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Mayo Clinic

National Institutes of Health

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

OASH Office of Women’s Health

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Cleveland Clinic

Columbia Medical Center

Michigan State University

University of Chicago Medicine – Celiac Disease Center

NASA Neuroscience And Spine Associates

American Heart Association

Lupus Foundation

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation

Journal of Clinical Oncology

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