A stroke occurs when your brain doesn’t get the oxygen and blood necessary to function. Blocked or leaking arteries cause it. There are two main types of strokes – ischemic and hemorrhagic. Surprisingly, women are 33% more likely to be misdiagnosed when having a stroke (via WebMD). This percentage is troubling, to say the least. So, why do women get misdiagnosed? The stroke may be so minor that you won’t even know it’s happening in some cases. You may not even feel any symptoms. It would show up on a CT scan or MRI, but doctors don’t do those unless they have a reason.
In some cases, women going to the emergency room for severe headaches are sent home before pursuing the underlying cause of the headache. Simple symptoms like this one are the reason strokes are so often misdiagnosed (via WebMD). Other symptoms include dizziness, loss of coordination, trouble seeing out of one or both eyes, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, problems with concentration, and difficulty speaking. If you or someone you know has these symptoms, it’s crucial to call 911 immediately. Use the acronym ‘FAST’ to discern whether or not it’s a medical emergency. This stands for face, arms, speech, and time. If it is a stroke, you’ll notice one side of your face drooping. You may have difficulty raising your arms, as well as slurred speech.
If so, you may have celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition where the body has problems processing gluten. Gluten makes up various foods we eat daily, and you can find gluten in food items such as pasta, bread, cereal, and even beer. Your small intestine is where the problems start with celiac disease. Gluten can’t be processed through the small intestine in people with celiac disease (via Mayo Clinic). So, why is it misdiagnosed in women? The problem lies with the symptoms. Men and women experience different symptoms with celiac disease, making it more challenging to diagnose.
Celiac disease symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss. This variety of symptoms can often be mistaken for something else as simple as an upset stomach. You’ll notice continuing symptoms, especially after eating something containing gluten (via Mayo Clinic). Since gluten causes inflammation in the small intestine, people with celiac disease often feel sick most of the time. The symptoms only go away by removing gluten from your diet. Speak with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. They can refer you to a nutritionist who will help you design a diet and meal plan without gluten.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract (via Mayo Clinic). It can lead to serious symptoms that cause various problems in the body. Crohn’s disease is often misdiagnosed in women because the symptoms mimic other conditions related to the bowels. If you have Crohn’s disease symptoms, it’s important to tell your doctor immediately to avoid painful symptoms. Furthermore, women may experience more symptoms than men regarding Crohn’s disease (via Mayo Clinic). It’s possible to go years without a proper diagnosis or a diagnosis for something like irritable bowel syndrome.
Crohn’s disease symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, fatigue, and abdominal pain. Bleeding from the rectum, painful menstrual cycles, and painful sex are symptoms women experience more often than men. Studies show women get this disease about the same amount as men, but symptoms can differ drastically. You may go years having Crohn’s disease without any symptoms whatsoever, then one day, the symptoms show up full force. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s vital to talk to your doctor and voice your concerns. Crohn’s disease can’t be cured, but it is treatable with certain medications and possible surgery if necessary.
5. Learn More Information About Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is another autoimmune disease that affects the joints in the body. Studies show that women are more likely to get autoimmune diseases than men, so why do doctors misdiagnose them for other illnesses? Many things go into getting a proper diagnosis, especially for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Many of the symptoms can be attributed to other conditions, so it’s difficult for doctors to diagnose before ruling out everything else. Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of mimicking disease, where the symptoms make it difficult to diagnose. If your doctor suspects rheumatoid arthritis, you’ll be asked to get some blood testing done, and they may do some X-rays of certain joints in your body.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include pain in the hands, feet, knees, elbows, neck, and back (via Medline Plus). Other signs of RA include swollen joints, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, joint stiffness, strange pins and needles sensations, redness, and more. The plethora of symptoms makes it extremely difficult to pin down the cause (via Medline Plus). If you think rheumatoid arthritis is the culprit for your pain, ask your doctor for a referral to see a rheumatologist. These specialists can run more tests and find the cause of your symptoms. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or be assertive regarding your health. If you believe something is wrong and you aren’t getting answers, ask for a second opinion.
Chronic pain can be challenging to diagnose because of the differences in symptoms from person to person. It can take three to six months to get a diagnosis and begin treatment (via WebMD). Problems lie in the way pain is experienced on an individual basis. Doctors have to customize treatment plans for each walking through their doors. Whether you’ve been in pain for a few weeks, months, or even years, doctors will have to run a variety of tests to find the cause of your pain. Some testing may include bloodwork, MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans.
Symptoms vary for everyone in chronic pain, but most women experience joint pain, burning pain, muscle aches, irritability, depression, anxiety, problems sleeping, fatigue, and loss of flexibility (via WebMD). If you experience chronic pain that lasts for more than a few days at a time, it’s essential to speak with your doctor. You don’t have to sit at home in agony when treatments are available to ease your symptoms. Treatments for chronic pain include injections, physical therapy, medications such as muscle relaxers, anticonvulsants for nerve pain, antidepressants, acupuncture, and surgery.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. Doctors usually find them in women of childbearing years (via Mayo Clinic). These growths are often felt during pelvic exams but are often missed if the patient isn’t feeling any pain during the exam. Doctors don’t understand uterine fibroids well, so it’s important to know the symptoms and tell your gynecologist if you experience any symptoms. Uterine fibroids can be mistaken for other diseases such as PCOS and endometriosis. If you have a family history of uterine fibroids or other pelvic disorders, speak to your doctor about your risk (via Mayo Clinic).
Certain risk factors play a role in the development of uterine fibroids, including obesity, early-onset puberty, and a family history of fibroids. Symptoms of uterine fibroids include pelvic pain that can become severe, heavy menstrual cycles, and longer than average periods. The treatment for uterine fibroids usually involves removing the fibroid during surgery, but it can be treated with medications and preventative care. If you have uterine fibroids, speak to your doctor to learn more about your options and whether you need surgery for your specific case.
Heart attacks can be perilous. Studies show that women are fifty percent more likely to receive a misdiagnosis for heart attacks (via heart.org). So, why does this happen? Researchers believe it occurs due to misperceptions of what a heart attack patient looks like. Some doctors may have an idea and misdiagnose a woman because she doesn’t fit into their picture. It’s a dangerous way to look at heart attacks, especially since all types of people can have heart attacks, not just people who are obese. The University of Leeds in the United Kingdom found that 100 women per day were diagnosed with heart attacks in local hospitals. That’s a high number, but it doesn’t account for misdiagnosed people.
It’s essential to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, as well as the risk factors. Symptoms of a heart attack in women include shortness of breath, pain in the jaw, neck, back, and arms, pain or pressure in the chest, nausea, cold sweats, and even lightheadedness (via heart.org). If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. It may just save your life! Risk factors for heart attacks include diabetes, obesity, stress, eating an unhealthy diet, and drinking too much alcohol. If you meet these criteria, it is vital to speak with your doctor about your risk and change your habits to ensure safety.
1. Doctors Often Misdiagnose Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Women
CFS, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is a disease that makes you feel exhausted all of the time. Doctors do not understand it well, and this often leads to misdiagnosis. You could have this condition for years without knowing exactly what’s wrong with you. There is no testing for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so it’s difficult for doctors to diagnose (via Mayo Clinic). They are most likely to diagnose you with something else before concluding that the problem is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Your exhaustion with CFS is always worse when doing tasks but doesn’t get better even if you rest.
Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome include dizziness, the feeling that rest is never enough, and problems with concentration, memory, and focus. Other signs are swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, headaches, and joint or muscle pain (via Mayo Clinic). While the cause of CFS is unknown, doctors believe a variety of factors causes it. If your doctor suspects Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, they will try to rule out everything else with testing first to ensure a proper diagnosis. If you feel your doctor isn’t giving you the answers you need, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a second opinion. Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome includes antidepressants, medications for blood pressure, and pain medications. You may also benefit from certain types of therapy.