Conditions That Are Difficult to Diagnose: Part I

Conditions That Are Difficult to Diagnose: Part I

Most people suffering from mysterious symptoms find it is difficult or impossible to work. Along with their symptoms, they experience stress from not knowing what they are suffering from or how to treat it, making it difficult to focus in the workplace. In many cases, their symptoms are accompanied by a long and frustrating road to finding a diagnosis – if one is ever found.

To help our clients find their best treatment, Share Lawyers is creating a two-part series including information and resources about conditions that are difficult to diagnose, often missed by medical professionals, or even misdiagnosed.

Also referred to as underactive or low thyroid, hypothyroidism is a disorder that affects the endocrine system, causing the thyroid gland to under produce the necessary amount of thyroid hormone to regulate the body’s metabolic rate, heart and digestive functions, muscle control, brain development, and bone maintenance.

Hypothyroidism is difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms vary between individuals and hormone levels. The condition is often gradual and develops over a number of years. Symptoms like weight gain or fatigue are also connected to advancing age, and depression is sometimes attributed to lifestyle rather than a medical condition.

Without treatment, hypothyroidism can have complications ranging from a goiter, to infertility, to heart problems. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to ask your doctor for the necessary blood tests, as it cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone.

Defined as a chronic inflammatory disease also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, lupus is a disease of the immune system that is usually (90%) present in women. With lupus, the immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy parts of the body, leading to tissue damage and illness.

Lupus is often hard to diagnose or overlooked because not all symptoms are present in those suffering. In most cases, if the tell-tale face rash is missing, medical professionals may overlook the possibility of a lupus diagnosis.

There is also no one way to diagnose lupus. A combination of blood, urine, and physical exams are often necessary to find the lupus diagnosis. That’s why it’s so essential to keep a detailed list and journal of your physical and mental symptoms to help you with any diagnosis – especially with lupus.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. MS attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and damaging the transmission of nerve impulses. Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world, with an estimated 1 in 340 Canadians living with the disease.

MS is difficult to diagnose or often overlooked because the symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. They tend to wax and wane, rather than be persistently present. Once a doctor suspects MS, a spinal tap can provide the diagnosis.

Lyme disease is an inflammatory infection that spreads to humans through tick bites. The disease is caused by the transfer of borrelia bacteria, which commonly infects animals like birds, mice, other small rodents, and deer.

Ticks get this bacteria by biting infected animals, and then pass it on to other hosts, including humans. There are many strains or genospecies of borrelia that cause Lyme disease (borreliosis) in humans.

Lyme disease presents in individuals in a myriad of ways, and there are over 100 known symptoms of this disease. The infection can affect many areas and aspects of the infected person, including:

Early treatment of Lyme Disease is crucial; however, diagnosis can often be difficult due to the variety of ways symptoms present in those infected. The tell-tale “bullseye” rash from the tick bite does not appear in all individuals. A blood test can check for Lyme disease antibodies in the blood, but these antibodies don’t appear until a few weeks after the infection and this test is notoriously unreliable.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition often characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. Symptoms usually begin after a  physical trauma, surgery, infection, significant psychological stress, or sometimes gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis for fibromyalgia is often difficult or prolonged, as other conditions are usually ruled out first before your doctor settles on the diagnosis for fibromyalgia. It also exists within a medical culture where all symptoms and diseases must be treated, and fibromyalgia had no known cure.  

Patients can sometime be dismissed by their medical professionals when presenting this disorder as an option, as it is often labeled as “all in your head” or a “woman’s disease”.

Awareness of your symptoms and patterns is an essential part of working toward your diagnosis. When consulting with your medical professional, advocate for exploring every avenue when searching for a diagnosis.

It’s important to make your health a priority. Take advantage of all the resources available to you and remember that you are not alone.

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