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A trip to the doctor's office may be your first stop to seek treatment for new body pains, uncomfortable symptoms and maybe even a stomach ache, but a new report suggests doctors might have a hard time identifying your health holdup.
The report from Health.com says that you might even be your own best doctor, just by listening to what your body tells you. Think about your recent activity when you experience pain in your limbs or joints, or your diet when it comes to digestive issues.
"A lot of symptoms are nonspecific and variable, depending on the person," David Fleming, MD, president of the American College of Physicians and a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri said. "On top of that, many diagnostic tests are expensive and aren't done routinely, and even then they don't always give us a black and white answer."
So when (and if) your doc is mistaken, which diseases are the trickiest to name and tame? Health.com lists some of the most difficult diseases for doctors to diagnose:
1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS has no real test to prove it exists, but instead, the diagnosis follows a process of elimination (similar to detection of food allergies). Patients with IBS suffer abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and diarrhea for at leas six months before they undergo a formal evaluation, with symptoms present for at least three days in a row.
2. Celiac Disease It's a long road before Celiac Disease (an immune reaction to gluten) can be diagnosed - between six to 10 years. Diarrhea, weight loss, itchy skin, headaches, joint pain, acid reflux and heartburn occur among Celiac sufferers. The only way to distinguish between Celiac Disease and other medical conditions is through a blood test or endoscopy.
3. Fibromyalgia Chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue can be due to fibromyalgia... but not necessarily. Docs might "settle" on diagnosing fibromyalgia, but patients should seek multiple opinions from specialists who rule out other diseases.
4. Rheumatoid Arthritis The autoimmune disorder (RA) often brings aches, pains, swelling and inflammation that leave you questioning. Blood tests, and careful accounts of a patient's history are the proper way to rule on RA.
"Early stages of RA can mimic many other conditions... sometimes it's just a sense of aches or stiffness in the joints, which could be caused by a lot of different things," Fleming told Health.com.
5. Multiple sclerosis MS takes place when your immune system attacks your nerve cells, and complicates communication between your brain and other organs. Fleming said the diseases "waxes and wanes," and that feelings of numbness, weakness or tingling are hard to link to MS. Plus, the severity of MS symptoms greatly varies from patient to patient.
6. Lyme Disease Commonly associated with tick bites and a rash that surrounds the bite, Lyme Disease may also cause fatigue, headaches, joint pain and an illness that feels like the flu. Plus, not everyone with Lyme Disease will develop a rash. A blood test is the best determinant for Lyme Disease antibodies, but the results could take weeks to generate and are known for being unreliable.
7. Endometriosis Women who feel pelvic pain, cramping and heavy bleeding when their periods come around often see a doctor because the symptoms are severe enough to keep them from work, errands and activity. Endometriosis, in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, gets worse over time. Doctors can detect endometrial tissue during a woman's exam, or with an ultrasound or laparoscopy.
8. Migraines We all get headaches - so how do you know that yours is a true migraine? The condition often comes with intense throbbing, nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound. Seeing at least two neurologists (for two opinions) is your best bet.
"Sometimes migraine symptoms can be very severe, where the patient can even develop paralysis, and other times they can be very subtle," Fleming said. "Patients might feel dizzy or lightheaded or feel a vague discomfort in their heads, and oftentimes they'll get treated with medication that might not be appropriate for a true migraine."
9. Diabetes If Type 2 Diabetes goes untreated, the disease can hand life-threatening damage to your body's major organs. Type 2 Diabetes symptoms, which can last for years, include bursts of hunger and thirst, frequent urination, a sudden drop in weight and fatigue.
"There are a lot of people out there with elevated blood sugar levels who aren't getting to the doctor regularly, so they aren't getting checked for it," Fleming said. "They won't realize it until it gets severe enough that they start developing side effects, like problems with their vision or numbness in their feet or hands."
Read the full list of difficult-to-diagnose diseases on Health.com
Web Editor Holly Pennebaker writes health and fitness content for WCPO.com. Follow Holly on Twitter: @HPennebaker