It’s scary enough getting diagnosed with a disease. But being diagnosed with a disease that mimics other diseases? Now that’s just downright terrifying. And, unfortunately, there are a fair number of ailments out there that get misdiagnosed because their symptoms mirror those of other conditions. Here’s a look at 15 diseases that mimic other diseases.
Woman experiencing stomachache, appendicitis pain | Kittisak Jirasittichai/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
You may be surprised to hear it’s difficult to diagnose appendicitis. But Dr. Eugene Shapiro tells CNN this life-threatening condition can mimic abdominal ailments. “Some people have an appendix that points backward instead of forward in the body, so the symptoms present in a different location,” he explains.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Photo of a woman holding her stomach in pain | Tharakorn/iStock/Getty Images
The problem with IBS is that there’s no designated test to determine if you have it and doctors typically require symptoms to be present for a lengthy stint of time before diagnosing. That means IBS symptoms — gas, bloating, food intolerance — not only vary from person to person but may be mistaken for something else like lactose intolerance.
Checking blood sugar levels for diabetes | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages
Dr. David Fleming tells CNN diabetes symptoms tend to not manifest until the disease has been in the body for a long period of time, so people don’t get checked until something is very wrong. To make matters worse, diabetes can be caused by other conditions such as pancreatitis, making it even harder to pinpoint.
A young woman on gluten-free diet | iStock.com/lolostock
For starters, the general public’s obsession with celiac disease over the last couple of years has driven too many people to try diagnosing themselves on their home computers. Additionally, symptoms may include itchy skin, headaches, and joint pain — which make it seem more like an autoimmune disease like lupus. (More on that later.)
Low back pain | sanjagruji/iStock/Getty Images
There are a handful of autoimmune diseases that mimic the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, so nailing down a diagnosis. Plus, RA is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are so general, Mayo Clinic tells us. “There is no one blood test or physical finding to confirm the diagnosis,” they continue. “During the physical exam, your doctor will check your joints for swelling, redness, and warmth. He or she may also check your reflexes and muscle strength.”
A senior woman getting rehabilitation for her painful arm. | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images
Fibromyalgia comes with a wide range of symptoms, and different doctors may diagnose different things, Fleming tells CNN. “There are studies that show that people with certain symptoms who show up at a rheumatologist will be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but if the same patients show up at a gastroenterologist they’ll be diagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome,” he says.
Man in a hospital bed | seb_ra/Getty Images
“Symptoms of MS are unpredictable,” the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says, “and vary in type and severity from one person to another and in the same person over time. Symptoms may disappear or remit completely or they may persist and may worsen over time.”
Lyme disease | nechaev-kon/Getty Images
As if the concept of disease-carrying creepy crawlers wasn’t bad enough. This symptoms of this disease often mimic those of other ailments. “Many signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are often found in other conditions, so diagnosis can be difficult,” Mayo Clinic says. “If you don’t have the characteristic Lyme disease rash, your doctor might ask about your medical history, including whether you’ve been outdoors in the summer where Lyme disease is common, and do a physical exam.”
Doctor with clipboard | megaflopp/Getty Images
This debilitating disease has a wide range of symptoms that can affect different parts of the body, and therefore mimic a wide range of other diseases. WebMD adds that “unlike some other diseases, it cannot be diagnosed with a single lab test. ” Since the process of having blood work done is so lengthy, lupus is often diagnosed as something else.
A migraine | sankalpmaya/Getty Images
Bad headaches can be the symptom of many different medical ailments, and migraines may not be the first thing that is diagnosed. That is, unless your family is prone to them “If you have migraines or a family history of migraines, a doctor trained in treating headaches (neurologist) will likely diagnose migraines based on your medical history, symptoms, and a physical and neurological examination,” Mayo Clinic says.
Illustration of the thyroid gland | iStock.com/Nerthuz
Symptoms of having an under-active thyroid may include weight gain, fatigue, and memory loss. Since hypothyroidism mimics depression it can often be diagnosed as such but is also often times mistaken for fibromyalgia and can even raise the risk of developing fibromyalgia itself!
Tears on eyelashes | Andrei310/iStock/Getty Images Plus
The most common symptoms of Sjogren’s are dry mouth and dry eyes. But there can be other signs that mimic those of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Since symptoms vary from person to person, it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint. There are a variety of tests that can be done, but there is no single test that effectively recognizes Sjogren’s in everyone.
Red and white blood cells | iStock.com/Rost-9D
Cornelia Weyand, MD, PhD, division chief of immunology and rheumatology at Stanford explains each case of vasculitis is like its own rare disease, and therefore hard to diagnose. There are also no specific blood tests to pinpoint vasculitis, so “patients are seen by many different specialists” because different organs may be involved.
Menstrual pain | shih-wei/iStock/Getty Images Plus
This condition, in which cells grow abnormally outside of the uterus, may have no symptoms at all. When it does, however, it may include cramping and pain during intercourse, which may cause it to be misdiagnosed as an STD. Endometriosis is also more common in women with infertility problems, although MedicineNet says it doesn’t cause infertility itself.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Uterus and ovaries | fruttipics/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Polycystic ovary syndrome is already hard to diagnose because women from different ethnic backgrounds tend to not have the same physical symptoms. Additionally, PCOS symptoms often include hormone imbalance and mood swings, which can lead to it being diagnosed as a behavioral disorder.
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