Health

Medical Red Flags: Signs That Your Doctor May Be Overlooking Your Health

In the intricate dance of healthcare, where the pursuit of diagnosis meets the complex choreography of patient symptoms, there exists a nuanced reality: the occasional oversight… Alexander Gabriel - January 15, 2024

In the intricate dance of healthcare, where the pursuit of diagnosis meets the complex choreography of patient symptoms, there exists a nuanced reality: the occasional oversight by even the most diligent of physicians. Much like a detective deciphering cryptic clues, doctors navigate a labyrinth of medical possibilities when confronted with a patient’s symptoms.

However, the intricate puzzle of the human body is not always straightforward, and symptoms can at times masquerade in disguise or hide in plain sight. Even worse are the times we may repeatedly go to a doctor with symptoms, only to be turned away despite something more insidious happening behind the scenes. Below are symptoms that are often overlooked and stories from patients who weren’t heard.

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Reddit

Lung Damage Misdiagnosis

Reddit user, u/ColorTimesTen, went to the doctor with breathing issues. “A couple years ago, I was having lots of trouble sleeping and would wake up many times during the night, usually out of breath and coughing and would do the same when I woke in the morning. I asked my doctor and it took him several months to send me to a sleep specialist,” they recount. ” ColorTimesTen continues, “The results came back in about a month and I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, meaning that I would stop breathing while sleeping.

The treatment for this was to sleep with an oxygen machine, which pumped air into my lungs through a tube and a rubber mask that went over my nose and mouth…Fast forward 4 months. I’ve been using the machine every night but I still wake up coughing, even worse than before. Doctor takes another look at my test results and says ‘Oh! I read these wrong. You don’t have sleep apnea.’ I also later found out that using the machine was actually damaging my lungs because it was over-expanding them while I slept.”

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King 5 News

The Cancer That Was Never There

“I was misdiagnosed as having ovarian cancer 2 years ago because of a very poorly done sonogram. The first surgeon refused to look at the film, and based on the report alone (inconclusive) was going to perform a total hysterectomy, whether he found cancer or not. “That’s just what we do.” He also included a detailed writeup of a physical exam he never performed and listed symptoms indicating cancer that I explicitly told him I did not have,” writes u/fietsvrouw.

“Finally got approval (after a 6 month process) to see a doctor out of state who was the only doctor I could find who would assure me that he would not remove anything if I was not sick. HE looked at the film and said it was badly done, did his own film, and sent me home. Not a damned thing wrong with me.”

Atascocita Emergency Room Xray
Signature Care Emergency Center

Misdiagnoses Run Rampant in ERs

“My dad went into ER with a very high temperature and stomach pain. Both ER doctors told him it was the flu and sent him home, three more visits to ER before they admitted him. First night being admitted he flat lines and gets rushed to ICU. Blood tests and all that crap get done turns out my dad has a very type of cancer thats so far spread there is nothing they can do.

“Three days later he passes away. Within 2 weeks i went from having a dad and planning to go to the molson indy for my 19th birthday, to holding his hand saying goodbye. Thanks to that i distrust all doctors, i refuse to take there first opinion as right and wont go to the hospital unless i 100% have to.”

Mammography 2 Copy
Colorado Public Radio

Aggressive Breast Cancer

“Found a lump in my breast that was the size of a half dollar. Super in tune with my body and was very healthy and only 26. Go to my OBGYN immediately (who is really renowned in my city) and he does a sonogram and says, ‘no big deal! It’s a fibroadenoma! You’re all good, don’t you worry.’ It was stage 2 highly aggressive breast cancer that would have metastasized and I would have been terminal if I waited even months.

“I did 16 rounds Of chemo, 35 rounds of radiation and I’m 7 years in remission. My ex boyfriend’s parents were a doctor and a BC survivor and got me set up for a second opinion with a breast cancer specialist. I saw her two days after. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she did the ultrasound. It was on a Friday. I was diagnosed officially 5 days later.”

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Prevention

Type 1 Diabetes

“My eyes kept going bloodshot every so often it was every couple of months one would go bloodshot and I couldn’t look at light and I was in constant pain, then a week later that would heal and the next week it would be the other one. Basically I got told I probably had gonorrhoea. A month later I found out I had type 1 diabetes and it was my retina leaking fluid into my eye because the blood vessels were so full of glucose and I wasn’t on insulin yet.”

The healthcare system failed this individual due to a combination of factors, primarily stemming from misdiagnosis and delayed intervention. The initial assumption that the recurring bloodshot eyes were indicative of gonorrhea highlights a failure in accurate diagnosis. The lack of comprehensive medical evaluation and the focus on a single potential cause led to a critical oversight. Moreover, the prolonged period between the onset of symptoms and the eventual diagnosis of type 1 diabetes indicates a breakdown in timely medical attention.

Incision And Drainage Of Abscess Tooth 1
Orange Park Smiles

Severe Abscess

“I was working in the field (archaeological survey) when I started having sharp pains in my jaw. Eating was impossible. I went to a dentist in Wheatland, Wyoming–he found nothing. I had a swollen left jaw and flare-ups for for 6 months, seeking medical attention with no results. Over the next few months i saw two more MDs (one telling me flippantly after his examination: ‘why are you here’– implying that it was all in my head). Around six months after it began, I awoke in the middle of the night with the most excruciating pain I had ever felt.

“My wife drove to the ER. They immediately sent me on an emergency visit to yet another dentist. Looking at the x-rays, he said I had the worst abscess he’d ever seen and that my jaw would have likely broken (while chewing) within the next two weeks. He drained an enormous amount of fluid from the abscess. The next day he drained the same amount. I was on antibiotics for nearly a month. That was the illness that taught me doctors were not infallible. Unfortunately, it would not be my last misdiagnosis.”

Kidney Disease Patient's Husband Flees
Daily Trust

Constipation or Kidney Failure?

“I went in at age 15 with pain and hardness in my lower back on the left side. Other weird symptoms. First I was told I was just constipated. ( I wasnt) Next time I was told I just lifted things wrong and to lift more with my legs. (what in the heck was I supposedly lifting at that age?) Other non-diagnosed trips later, just stopped going to Drs. for it. Had an ultrasound at age 22 while pregnant, they always check your kidneys. The lady did my right kidney, told me it was fine. Went to my left kidney, was silent then said ‘I need to go get the Dr.’ He came in, looked at my kidney, asked if I had pain, etc.

“I said yes, it had been going on for years. He told my kidney was covered in cysts, swollen and shaped like california. Ends up my ureter had a narrow spot and as I went through puberty it started to swell shut and everytime I got that pain, my kidney was backed up and the urine was stuck in there, destroying my kidney. After 3 surgeries and issues for over another 15 years I had to have my kidney removed.”

Woman In Pain
National Women’s Health Network

Woman Told She Just Needed More Rest

“My mom went to our small town doctor complaining of constant fatigue, general feeling of unwellness, and a near-constant menstruating state. The doctor told her to go home and get some more rest – basically that she was being a worry wart female and she just needed to rest. She tried that, but the bleeding would not stop and she just had zero energy (which was so unlike her… she’s a pretty driven woman). She finally went to the big city that we lived about an hour and half away from to see a real doctor.

“They ran some test, did an ultrasound, and found that she had ovarian and uterine cancer – they cyst on her ovary was bigger than a baby’s head (she’s not a small woman, so it didn’t cause any bulges which is why she didn’t notice). Had to have a full hysterectomy, go through chemo and radiation. During the hysterectomy, the cyst on her ovary burst – if she hadn’t had the surgery, it would have burst inside her and stayed there.”

Ms Symptoms
Hartford Health Care

Completely Wrong Diagnosis

“In 1999 I was diagnosed with MS. I started treatment but kept getting worse until I was bedridden by 2004. About this time, my primary doc was transferring to Florida. I saw his replacement. He was unconvinced of the diagnosis or treatment plan so he reran all the tests. Turns out I had Lymes Disease complied with Fibromyalgia and Celiac. He changed my treatment/medications and within a month I was up and moving and working at a new job.

“It took almost two years to lose the weight gained from the other meds and the sedentary lifestyle. Although I still live with chronic pain, it is manageable and I even work for FedEx as a handler, loading trucks and lifting heavy boxes without too much stress to my body. Thank you Dr. Gary Friedman for changing my life.”

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YouTube

It Was Adhesives All Along

“My hubby; 6 years of meds, steroids from hell, antibiotics, 2 surgeries and 2 colonoscopies, 7 abscesses (likely caused by the steroids), hospital stays, ridiculous exclusion diets, puncture biopsies to VERY sensitive tissue… A GP, Gastro, Dermatologist, and a U of M surgeon… none listened to what we had to say and not a single full blood work up was done by any of them. NOT ONE. They told him it was Crohns, infections (Staph and MRSA in the abscesses), hidradenitis suppurativa, and food allergies.

“WE figured out in the end it was zinc toxicity from too much denture adhesive which my hubby has due to a motorcycle accident that shattered his upper teeth. He’d gotten an ill fitting denture plate (yet another lousy medical professional) who refused to adjust it without adding more cost. ( adjustment was supposed to be included and he was told day 1 that it didn’t fit right, but we couldn’t afford to have a re-do out of pocket at the time) The meds prescribed along the way only exacerbated it, making his system weaker, and allowing the problem to grow out of control. Within 2 weeks of switching to zinc-free adhesive, the problems went away.”

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OSF Health Care

Undiagnosed Appendicitis Creates a Bigger Emergency

“A good/terrible storybook have there. I took my daughter (2 years and 2 months old at the time) in for a “tummy ache.”. The nurse practitioner said she had the flu and sent us on our way. The next day she felt well enough to get up and play a little with her brother. The following day she looked at me with an expression I can’t explain and said “Daddy my tummy hurts”. I called the drs office and they said there are no appointments available. I said if you won’t see her in 5 minutes I’ll be at the hospital ER. Of course they said bring her right in. Within 30 seconds he said “she has appendicitis, go to the hospital immediately.”

It turns out she likely felt better thursday because her appendix burst and relieved the immediate infection. On friday she had raging peritonitis. She spent an extra 6 days in the hospital because of the misdiagnosis. The antibiotics and epoiton shots were terrible. The pediatric surgeon said that about 1 out of 900,000 of people each year will get appendicitis in the two year old age group. So if you live in a city of a million, one two-year-old will have it. scariest week of my life.”

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People

Bad News for an 18 Year Old

“Leukemia. I spent two weeks continuously going to my doctor because I started feeling sick the night I graduated high school. They thought it was mono at first and did countless mono tests. They were all negative. Then they told me it might be HIV. Thankfully that test was negative. After two weeks of no luck, my doctor put me in the hospital and said I might have leukemia.

“I was 18 and just graduated. I spent a lot of time crying. Anyway, I was there for a week. They did countless tests and finally diagnosed me with mono. I don’t know why it took so long, but that’s all I had. I still had to go to a cancer center and have tests done every two weeks for six months just to be sure.”

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Heiden Orthopedics

Wheelchair Bound for Three Months

“Doctor told me my x-ray was clear and that my foot was fine. Turned out they had x-rayed the wrong part of my leg, and by the time they noticed, my heel-bone was shattered completely, and I had been walking 20+ miles a day, thinking I was just imagining the pain (my foot was ridiculously swollen but I kept telling myself it was nothing because “x-ray was clear” and I could push through it with enough willpower- I ended up in a wheelchair for 3 months and a cast for 4 months).”

The prolonged period of walking 20+ miles a day, despite the apparent swelling, reflects not only the miscommunication and diagnostic error but also the lack of proper attention to the patient’s concerns. The subsequent three months in a wheelchair and four months in a cast could have been avoided with a more meticulous and accurate medical examination, emphasizing the dire need for improved communication, precision, and patient-centered care within the healthcare system.

Mhic Bedroom
CHOC

Teen Told It’s All in Their Head

“When I was 14 I woke up paralysed. Started screaming and freaking out, parents rushed me to hospital. The drs said I obviously had severe mental disorder, because there was no physical reason why I couldn’t move, but they could tell I honestly believed I couldn’t move, as I wasn’t flinching at needles ect. Spent time in the mental ward, still unable to move, they finally do an MRI. Turns out I have epilepsy, and it was a type of seizure called Todd’s Paralysis, where the brain and body lose connection. After going on epilepsy meds, I could move again.”

Collapsedlung Share
Medline Plus

Doctor Laughed in His Face

“Not me but my SO went to the doctor for chest pain and asked for a paper so he could get an x-ray. Doctor laughed in his face and said my SO was faking it and said it was probably just a bacterial infection. Prescribed him some antibiotics. My SO pushed for an x-ray as he is now having major problems breathing, and the doctor got frustrated and said that it was nothing and that if he didn’t trust a doctor, then he shouldn’t go to one.

“I take him to the x-ray and the tech says that we have to wait 3-5 days for results, if there are any. Not a minute after we stepped out of the x-ray center, they called us back in and told us to go straight to the ER as my SO had a collapsed lung and was relying on one lung to breathe.”

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The New York Times

Little Brother’s Lymph Nodes

“Not me but my older brother. When he was a baby my mom noticed his lymph node in his neck was swollen. Like really really swollen. She took him to the doctor who told he it was an ear infection and put him on antibiotics. A week later it was still there and he had started trying to stick his hand down his throat trying to get it out and gagging himself. She took him back to the doctor who insisted this was nothing but an ear infection gave him a different antibiotic and told her to relax.

“SIX MONTHS later he is still sick the lymph node is even more swollen and she is very very worried. She goes to doctor after doctor who all say it’s just a bad ear infection. Finally, she freaks out and demands more test and what do they find? TB. He had TB the whole time! They had to do surgery and remove the lymph nodes and he had to take antibiotics for an entire year! It could have ended up so badly had she not gone with her mother’s instinct and flipped out on the doctor.”

Gallstones And Specimen Jar
Brisbane Surgeon

Passing Out All of the Time

“Ended up in the ER a few times last year for various reasons. The biggest one was because of pain in what felt like my heart. I was too far gone the first time to realize it didn’t start there and the episode was over by the time I was at the hospital. The EMt’s, nurses, doctor and my family all thought the pain and the passing out was from stress. Which I knew was wrong. It’s never happened before in actual stressful situations.

“Two weeks later passed out in front of my roommates door when it occurred again. This time was still in pain when I was in the ambulance and in the ER. Got some hydrocodone and figured out the pain was coming from my back so the doctor ordered an ultrasound. Turns out I had really bad gallstones and there was a possibility of it becoming infected or erupting. Ended up having surgery about a week after that. Now I have no more issues with pain like that.”

Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

https://www.jcreiterlaw.com/posts/doctors-misdiagnose-these-5-diseases-the-most/

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/136vqo/have_you_ever_been_misdiagnosed_by_a_doctor_if_so/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20375941#:~:text=Ovarian%20cancer%20is%20a%20type,and%20destroy%20healthy%20body%20tissue.

https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/products/diagnostic-errors-emergency-updated/research#:~:text=We%20estimate%20that%20among%20130,serious%20harms%20from%20diagnostic%20error.

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/what-is-breast-cancer.htm

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22601-insulin

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mouth/dental-abscess/#:~:text=A%20dental%20abscess%20is%20a,is%20called%20a%20periodontal%20abscess.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17689-kidney-failure

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16409-uterine-cancer

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269#:~:text=Multiple%20sclerosis%20(MS)%20is%20a,the%20rest%20of%20your%20body.

https://medical-news.org/unusual-allergies-you-wont-believe-exist/52827/

https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/appendicitis#:~:text=Appendicitis%20symptoms,-The%20signs%20and&text=The%20most%20common%20symptoms%20of,Fever

https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/mononucleosis.html#:~:text=Mononucleosis%20(mono)%20is%20a%20viral,a%20few%20weeks%20of%20rest.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/understanding-x-rays-of-broken-bones-2549301

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/todds-paralysis#:~:text=Todd’s%20paralysis%20is%20a%20neurological,one%20side%20of%20the%20body.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15304-collapsed-lung-pneumothorax

https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm#:~:text=Tuberculosis%20(TB)%20is%20caused%20by,with%20TB%20bacteria%20becomes%20sick.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gallstones/symptoms-causes/syc-20354214

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