One of the first things that you expect as a patient is to go to your doctor, tell your “story” meaning describe your symptoms, and end up with an accurate diagnosis. But sometimes doctor’s miss the boat. What can you do if your doctor tells you that you’re “fine” even when you think something is wrong.

The problem when you’re sick or feeling under the weather is that you’re not functioning at your highest level. So sometimes when you go to the doctor in that state, you have less ability to advocate for yourself or even to describe your symptoms in a systematic way so that your doctor can come up with a diagnosis. But before we progress into talking about the things that you can do to help your doctor be able to properly diagnose you, is to talk about what a diagnosis really is.

What is a diagnosis?
By definition, diagnosis means “the act or process of identifying or determining

First of all, many patients mistakenly think that their doctor is always right, and/or that their doctor “gets it right the first time.”  Unfortunately for some patients, they think that because they visited their doctor and were given a diagnosis it is the correct one.

Medicine and the diagnosing of disease  or illness can be complex. Certain symptoms are non-specific, meaning that the same symptoms can actually occur in different conditions. Additionally, doctors tend to think in terms of the more simple to the complex. Meaning that if your symptom, for example, coughing generally occurs during allergy season, your doctor is more likely to diagnose you with an “allergy” even if your cough is really the symptom of something more dangerous.

The other thing that happens frequently in medicine, is that when you get a diagnosis, if it’s the correct one, you are thought to not have to return to either the same doctor or a new doctor for the same problem. Meaning that if your doctor got your diagnosis correct… won’t need to come back for care for that same illness unless your illness required specific follow up exams.  So if the health care professional…”got it right”…. you won’t return, but if they “got it wrong” then it means generally speaking that you as the patient would return to the health care setting in order to try to be properly diagnosed if the problem is still ongoing and hasn’t been resolved from your original diagnosis.

What’s difficult and dangerous for some patients is that they don’t allow themselves to consider that their doctor may not have diagnosed them properly the first time, and thus, even if their symptoms are ongoing, may delay getting treatment because they think that their doctor “got it right the first time.”

Here’s some tips you can use if you think that you have not been properly diagnosed, or if you’re not getting better using the treatment that your doctor recommended.

gettingdiagnosed Keep a journal of your symptoms: (This is probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself get a proper diagnosis) In your journal, put the date, time, and detail about what symptoms you are having:

Also include things like:

* What makes your symptoms better

* What makes them worse

* Do they occur at any one time of day more often than another?

* If you have pain on a scale from 1-10 what is your pain level

* Describe the pain: Is it burning, stabbing, throbbing, etc?  What adjectives would you use to describe the quality of the pain?

* How long has this been going on?

* What medications both over the counter and prescription have you taken? Do the medications help?

* How would others describe what is happening to you? Get your family member or significant other to describe what they see when you are having symptoms of your illness.

It’s very important to realize that no matter how great your physician may be, there are many times in medicine that health care providers simply “get it wrong”. So if you have an illness that is not resolving, document your symptoms, don’t give up, and keep going back to make sure that your condition is properly diagnosed.  Never assume that because one physician told you that “everything is fine” that you are ok, especially if your “gut” says that it’s not and your symptoms keep recurring.

In one of our upcoming issues we’ll share more details about how one particular patient’s condition deteriorated so badly, that he almost died. Here’s a preview of some of his symptoms. Can you figure out what was wrong? Share your thoughts if you think you know what was wrong with this patient.

“John’s Story” What Was Wrong with John? Do You Know?

“John” a patient in his late 50’s had passed out once at a barbeque. EMS was called, and John was taken to the hospital for evaluation. The spouse of John reported that John had appeared to have a seizure.   Nothing was found to be wrong with John at the hospital and he was released.  John continued to have sporadic “episodes” where he was very tired  and he felt a “funny feeling” in his stomach, and then began to have vomiting with some of these episodes which seemed to progress over the next few years.  During this time John was  taken to the Urgent Care Center several times. Each time upon arrival John was checked out by the physician. Blood work was done along with an EKG. John was an athlete and was proclaimed “perfectly healthy” but was told to return to the clinic if the symptoms recurred again.

We’ll have more of John’s story in an upcoming issue, but based on the above, do you have any ideas on what was wrong with John?