Is Your Doctor Missing A Serious Health Issue?
You have troubling symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or heart palpitations, so you promptly and diligently make an appointment with your doctor. At the appointment, your doctor reassures you that “it’s just stress” and points to factors in your life to support their diagnosis. You may feel embarrassed for “overreacting,” or you may feel unheard or irritated. You are far from alone.
The reported symptoms of certain groups, such as minorities, women, and the young are often dismissed. One study found that signs of heart disease are typically recognized as such in men, while often attributed to stress in women. One cited study found that “coronary heart disease symptoms presented in the context of a stressful life event were identified as psychogenic in origin when presented by women and organic in origin when presented by men.” Another study found that orthopedic surgeons are twice as likely to recommend total knee replacements to men than women with similar symptoms. While men are typically taken more seriously, they are not immune to the “it’s nothing” dismissal of symptoms.
We live in a time of unusual stress and competing demands. Even a seemingly “normal” symptom, such as fatigue, is often dismissed, but can be a sign of a serious disease. Here are just a few symptoms that may be masking something deeper:
Fatigue. Extreme fatigue can be an indication of an underlying condition such as kidney disease, heart disease, sleep apnea, anemia, or diabetes.
Headaches. Of course, stress or even mild dehydration can trigger a headache, but unusually frequent or severe headaches need to be investigated. If your headache is accompanied by a high fever, stiff neck, loss of coordination, or confusion, you need to seek prompt medical attention.
Weight Loss. Even if your doctor has been urging you to lose weight, a sudden unexplained weight loss is nothing to celebrate. It is a sign you may have an underlying medical condition such as cancer.
Chest Pain. Chest pain is often attributed to heartburn or stress, but it may also be a sign of a heart attack.
Fever. Yes, a fever can be a totally normal response to an infection or virus. But it can also be an indication of something more serious.
Numbness or Weakness. Sudden numbness or inability to move your limbs may be a sign of a stroke and need to be evaluated immediately. You know your body best. Don’t be intimidated if your doctor dismisses your symptoms or attributes them to stress. Insist on a deeper evaluation or get a second opinion. If you or a loved one is suffering because of a physician’s failure to take reported symptoms seriously, we may be able to help.