The practice of medicine has been around for thousands of years, and there’s a good reason why they call it a practice: we are still working hard to get it right. Trained medical professionals use the tools at their disposal, along with intuition and sweat, to make their diagnoses. Given the complexities of the human body and mind and all we have yet to understand about them, the healthcare establishment is doing the best they can.
So it’s no surprise that some medical conditions are either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed. Lack of 100 percent accurate or effective diagnostic tests and methods, patients who don’t fully disclose information to their healthcare providers, and reluctance to seek medical attention because of distrust of the medical system are some of the reasons people are misdiagnosed or are not diagnosed at all.
Here are five conditions that often fall into these categories. If you believe you may have one of the following health challenges, talk with a trusted healthcare practitioner about your concerns and questions. It could mean the difference between a misdiagnosis, no diagnosis, and the right diagnosis.
1. Thyroid Dysfunction
More than 12 percent of people in the United States will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime, and it will affect five to eight times more women than men. The American Thyroid Association reports that the causes of thyroid dysfunction are largely unknown, which is one reason why up to 60 percent of the estimated 20 million Americans with a thyroid condition don’t even know they have it; they are either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.
A missed diagnosis can spell trouble because it can put you at risk for osteoporosis, infertility, or cardiovascular disease. Pregnant women who are not diagnosed or incorrectly treated for hypothyroidism are at increased risk of preterm delivery, miscarriage, and giving birth to a child with severe developmental problems.
One major reason why thyroid dysfunction is mis- or not diagnosed is that too many doctors rely on the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test alone rather than run a complete thyroid blood panel. When patients suffering with symptoms of an under-performing thyroid (hypothyroid; e.g., depression, fatigue, weight gain, slow heart rate, brittle nails, constipation) get back their TSH test values within the “normal” range (which is arguably much too broad to be effective), they are often not given a prescription or validated.
A workup for thyroid dysfunction should include tests for TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3, thyroid peroxidase antibodies, and thyroglobulin antibodies, as well as a complete physical examination, family medical history, and personal medical history. All of this information can help your doctor accurately identify hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that is a major cause of hypothyroidism.
2. Vitamin D Deficiency
The majority of people in the world have a deficiency or insufficient levels of vitamin D, and actual percentages depend on many factors, including age, where one lives, time of year, and race. Symptoms of a deficiency of vitamin D can include bone pain and weakness, yet many others are often subtle, such as muscle cramps, fatigue, constipation, joint pain, weight gain, poor concentration, restless sleep, and headache.
Perhaps more importantly, vitamin D deficiency is associated with serious health consequences, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, obesity, increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, depression, higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cognitive impairment in older adults, respiratory infections, sleep apnea, inflammation, and severe asthma in children. Even if you are getting 15 to 20 minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun three to four days a week and taking a vitamin D supplement, you may still have insufficient of deficient levels.
Ask your doctor for a simple blood test to determine your vitamin D levels. Experts don’t agree on what constitutes a sufficient blood level of vitamin D; it ranges from greater than 20 ng/mL (Food and Nutrition Board) to 30 to 100 ng/mL (Endocrine Society) and 40 to 80 ng/mL (Vitamin D Council). Many healthcare professionals believe percentages in the higher range are best.
3. Adrenal Fatigue
If you live with a feeling of chronic tiredness and need coffee or other stimulants to get you going during the day, you may have adrenal fatigue, a syndrome that develops when the adrenal glands function at a subnormal level. Two major reasons adrenal fatigue is often not diagnosed is that it is characterized by symptoms that can be attributed to dozens of other conditions, and conventional medicine doesn’t even acknowledge it as a distinct syndrome.
Therefore, finding a physician who is familiar with adrenal fatigue and is willing to do the testing necessary to identify it, which include blood and urine tests, as well as special stimulation tests that can identify insufficient levels of adrenal hormones. Some of the other signs and symptoms of adrenal insufficiency may include waking up at 3am (and you are wide awake for the day), body aches, low blood pressure, loss of body hair, overly emotional (and you can’t handle stress well), skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation), lightheadedness, salt cravings, and unexplained weight loss.
Since we are under more stress than ever, we can support our adrenal glands by taking a daily supplement. Gaia Herbs recently launched a line of supplements that can help nourish these important glands. You can learn more here. Please note when taking an adrenal supplement, start slow and increase your dosage over time to what’s marked on the bottle.
4. Estrogen Dominance
The term estrogen dominance (aka estrogen overload) is misleading, so let’s clear that up first. Estrogen dominance is about the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. A woman can have a deficient, normal, or elevated estrogen level and have estrogen dominance if she has little to no progesterone to balance it out.
Once you see the dozens of symptoms associated with estrogen dominance as well as the list of conditions that can result from this hormone imbalance, it’s easy to understand why doctors could miss the diagnosis. In fact, estrogen dominance and adrenal fatigue have a lot in common. According to Lorna Vanderhaeghe, symptoms can include:
– Reduced sex drive
– Low thyroid (hypothyroid)
– Reduced progesterone levels
– Cells growing out of control leading to: cysts, polyps, fibroids, polycystic breasts, etc.
– Weight gain (specifically belly fat), and discourages weight loss
– Heavy periods
– Migraine headaches
– Worsened cellulite
– Breast tenderness
– Early onset puberty
To name a few!
Unfortunately you can’t test for estrogen dominance in blood. However, adequate saliva or urine testing can. Repeating an expanded hormone panel twice measuring levels of progesterone, testosterone, estrogen (estradiol), DHEA, and the two pituitary hormones (luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone) on multiple occasions can determine your estrogen levels if you are still experiencing your menstrual cycle. If you are postmenopausal, then one test may be sufficient. The downside of these tests is that they are costly. Truthfully if you are estrogen dominant your body will tell you by reviewing the list of side-effects above.
It’s critical for women to help prevent or curb estrogen dominance by avoiding xenoestrogens in the environment. Xenoestrogens are fat-soluble, non-biodegradable estrogen-like substances found in cosmetics and personal care products (parabens and pthalates), detergents, plastics, pesticides, Styrofoam, dry cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, artificial fragrances, and even spermicides. They accumulate in our fat tissues and the longer they are there, the more damage they can cause.
5. Multiple Sclerosis
Diagnosing multiple sclerosis is a challenge largely because there are no specific tests to identify this neurological disease and it shares many symptoms with other conditions. According to a research team at Oregon Health & Science University, even one of the helpful tests could be contributing to misdiagnosis: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The experts claim that clinicians rely too much on the scans, and this is leading to misdiagnoses and individuals taking prescription drugs for a disease they don’t have, and risking their health in the meantime.
Among the many other diseases that share common symptoms with multiple sclerosis are Lyme disease, multiple lacunar infarcts, neuromyelitis optica, fibromyalgia, vitamin B12 deficiency, and syphilis, among others. Some of those symptoms include fatigue, vision loss, eye pain, back pain, dizziness, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, heat intolerance, and tremor. A diagnostician who is familiar with multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions is your best bet for securing an accurate diagnosis of MS.
Always talk to your health care provider about any symptoms you may be experiencing, and do your homework before you meet with them. Good healthcare practitioners will be open to hearing what you researched and will listen carefully to what you have to say.
Source: care2.com Written by Andrea Donsky