No one likes going to the doctor, especially when something is wrong but you’re not sure exactly what. At least you have an idea of how it will go, though: make doctor’s appointment, see doctor, get diagnosis, treat problem. It’s not always pleasant, but taking care of your health is supposed to be, more or less, straight-forward.
The problem is that it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, as many as 12 million patients are misdiagnosed every single year. That works out to be about one in every twenty people, which means it’s not impossible to think that you might be misdiagnosed at some point.
Here are four common misdiagnoses, and what they could be mimicking:
If you’re diagnosed with: Overactive bladder (men)
Ask about: Prostate issues
Both conditions present with urgency, frequency, and having to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, sometimes several times a night. However, since two completely different parts of the body are involved, treatment for a bladder condition won’t help resolve prostate issues.
If it’s your prostate, you may also experience weakened urine stream, delay in starting your flow, and dribbling once you’re done. You may not feel as if you’ve ever completely emptied your bladder, either. Even though this one feels like a bladder problem, if simply treating your bladder isn’t helping, talk to your doctor about ways to keep your prostate healthy.
If you’re diagnosed with: Overactive bladder (women), or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Ask about: Ovarian cancer
Having to urinate frequently can cause a doctor to assume a bladder problem. Combine it with bloating and constipation, a doctor may make the leap to IBS. However, all of those symptoms are also indicative of ovarian cancer, as well. Another indicator is whether the symptoms are sporadic, or more constant. Bladder and bowel issues tend to come and go, whereas cancer symptoms will stick around and probably get worse. If changing your diet doesn’t help resolve your symptoms, be your own advocate and ask straight up about ovarian cancer.
If you’re diagnosed with: Heartburn or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease)
Ask about: Heart attack or heart disease
This one sounds ridiculous because surely no doctor will diagnose a heart attack as simple heartburn, but it happens more often than you may realize. Either condition could give you chest pain that radiates into your neck and/or jaw, nausea, and a burning and tightness in your chest. Since even doctors have a hard time telling these two apart, it’s essential you not try to self-diagnose this one. If there’s any question about if you have heartburn or if you’re having a heart attack, get to a doctor immediately.
If you’re diagnosed with: Flu or fibromyalgia
Ask about: Lyme disease
Lyme disease is actually known as “the great pretender” because it looks like so many other, more common conditions. Its symptoms are vague and somewhat universal: headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and brain fog. Some studies say it may be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia up to 40% of the time. It’s not uncommon for patients with Lyme disease to struggle for over a year until they are finally properly diagnosed. So if your flu just doesn’t get any better, or the treatment you’re trying for fibromyalgia isn’t working, speak up sooner rather than later.
If you get a diagnosis that just doesn’t fit somehow, or if the treatment doesn’t work, always say something. Doctors are skilled professionals, yes, but they’re also human. Getting a second opinion won’t insult them—or shouldn’t anyway—and may be the best way to protect your health. Be your own advocate, and keep looking for answers until you’ve found the right one.