Common Reasons for a Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can happen when a physician fails to:
- Recognize clinical signs and symptoms
- Order diagnostic tests
- Obtain the patient’s complete health history, including risk factors due to age or genetics
- Refer patient to a specialist or peer for a second opinion
- Misinterprets test or lab results
- Take the patient’s health complaints seriously
A patient can receive an incorrect or delayed diagnosis if the practitioner is impaired by drugs or alcohol or is too busy to spend appropriate time.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions
Pain that feels like heartburn could be a sign of a heart attack. It might also be the result of overeating or eating spicy food.
Symptoms alone might not be enough for a doctor to reach an accurate diagnosis. That is why physicians, specialists, and other medical professionals should act with due diligence to avoid misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis.
According to Prevention magazine, the five most commonly misdiagnosed health conditions are:
Sleep Apnea Misdiagnosed with Depression
Sleep apnea symptoms – a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing – are similar to depression. Both conditions involve disturbed or lack of sleep, lack of energy, sadness, or hopelessness.
Celiac Disease Confused with IBS
The symptoms for celiac disease – a digestive disorder triggered by a reaction to gluten – mimic those of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that over 80% of Americans with celiac receive an incorrect or delayed diagnosis.
Lyme Disease and Multiple Sclerosis
Doctors often diagnose patients with multiple sclerosis rather than the accurate Lyme disease diagnosis. MS is a progressive disorder in which patients benefit from early treatment, so a delayed or incorrect diagnosis is particularly harmful.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Mistaken for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease characterized by whole-body pain, including painful, swollen joints. Patients with this disease are often misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Strokes and Migraines
Doctors who only consider a migraine’s common symptoms – limb numbness, difficulty speaking, and blurred vision – fail to accurately diagnose a stroke. Each moment for a misdiagnosed stroke victim has life-threatening consequences.
When a Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis Is Malpractice
Because many conditions have similar symptoms and even the most thorough doctor can make a mistake, not all misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is malpractice.
Medical malpractice is a legal term describing an act or omission by a medical professional that deviates from the accepted medical standard practice.
The National Institutes of Health describes “the four Ds” for acts or omissions defined as medical malpractice:
- Duty of care owed to patients based upon accepted standards of care.
- Dereliction of this duty of care in some manner, either through recklessness, negligence, or omission.
- Direct cause resulting in injury, illness, or death to the patient.
- Damages are the economic and non-economic losses suffered by the patient – or their loved ones – due to their injury, illness, or death.