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Eight Tricky Illnesses Doctors Often Miss


Mysterious Symptoms

Dizziness, racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, chills or hot flashes, unfounded fear of imminent danger

Might Mean You Have

Panic disorder. Panic disorders are twice as common in women than men, especially those in their 20s and 30s. While there is no definitive cause, sufferers may have a genetic predisposition to the condition. Research also shows that attacks are often precipitated by a major life transition. Panic attacks occur suddenly and symptoms seem to arise from nowhere, so many people believe they are having a heart attack or going crazy the first time they experience one

Diagnosis

If you have suffered four or more panic attacks, see a licensed therapist familiar with the condition. Other symptoms to look out for include breathlessness, giddiness, chest tightness, palpitations or numbness, says doctor

Treatment

Includes cognitive and behavioral therapies and anti-anxiety medications to minimize - and even eliminate - attacks.

Mysterious Symptoms

Unexplained weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, fatigue, memory loss

Might Mean You Have

Hypothyroidism. While this occurs most often in women over the age of 40 (22 per cent of women have it by age 60), it can happen at any age to anyone whose thyroid gland is unable to secrete enough thyroid hormone. There is no prevention, screening tests are usually conducted.

Diagnosis

Ask your doctor for a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test; a high level indicates hypothyroidism. US-based Dr Leonard Wartofsky urges pregnant women to have TSH tests because hypothyroidism during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and complications like low birthweight and low foetal IQ.

Treatment

A daily dose of synthetic hormone supplement. Patients must take the supplement for the rest of their lives, but experts say there are virtually no known side effects or complications when the correct dosage is taken.

Mysterious Symptoms

Fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain and/or swelling in the lands, wrists or feet (especially first thing in the morning)

Might Mean You Have

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The condition, which involves inflammation of the lining of the joints, most often begins between the ages of 20 and 50. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but RA is one of the most disabling if it's not effectively treated. It's an autoimmune disease, which means the body's immune cells attack and inflame the membrane around the joints.

Diagnosis

RA sufferers experience pain, swelling, redness and morning stiffness in the joints of the hands and legs. This is attributed to an overactive immune system which attacks the joints.

Treatment

A rheumatologist can help devise an appropriate course of treatment. New medications available can reduce discomfort and prevent joint damage. A disease modifying drug can also be prescribed. Moderate physical activity to help improve joint flexibility is also advisable.

Mysterious Symptoms

Extreme fatigue, muscle pain, sore throat, concentration problems.

Might Mean You Have

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is said to be three times more common in women than men. A large proportion of sufferers, however, go undiagnosed.

Diagnosis

Many diseases cause severe fatigue, so CFS is difficult to diagnose, especially because it has no known cause. Right now, there is no one test that can clearly identify the disorder. First, your doctor should rule out conditions with similar symptoms, such as sleep apnea and mononucleosis.

If these are ruled out, and you have had at least four of the following symptoms for at least six months - fatigue that doesn't improve with rest, impaired short-term memory and concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle or joint pain without redness or swelling, headaches or extreme lethargy lasting for more than 24 hours after exertion - you may be suffering from CFS.

Treatment

Consult a doctor who is familiar with CFS. There are no standard remedies, so patients use a variety of lifestyle and drug therapies (such as moderate exercise and anti-depressants).

Mysterious Symptoms

Hair growth on the face and body, menstrual irregularities, acne, weight gain around the midsection.

Might Mean You Have

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS occurs when the ovaries produce excess testosterone.

Diagnosis

See an endocrinologist familiar with PCOS for a blood test to measure your total testosterone level as well as your "bioavailable level" (without the latter, you may get a false negative reading). Also get screened for Type 2 diabetes since PCOS sufferers have seven times the risk.

Treatment

Oral contraceptives are typically used to lower testosterone levels. Maintaining a healthy weight with diet and regular exercise can help. Experts  recommends increasing the intake of cruciferous vegetables and supplements to regulate or reduce the symptoms of PCOS.

Mysterious Symptoms

Chronic pelvic pain, urgent/frequent urination

Might Mean You Have

Interstitial cystitis. Experts think a defect in the bladder wall causes inflammation, resulting in frequent, urgent and painful urination. However, this theory hasn't been proven. The average onset of this problem occurs around the age of 40 and affects mostly women.

Diagnosis

Visit your doctor for a urine culture to rule out common problems such as urinary tract infections or kidney stones. Next, see a urologist for a cystoscopy and hydrodistention, a procedure in which the bladder is filled with water so that any haemorrhages on the bladder lining can be seen with a thin, telescope-like instrument. This helps to "detect bladder wall inflammation, which includes pin point bleeding or ulcers".

Treatment

Dietary changes, such as avoiding spicy and acidic foods and beverages, can help. A combination of medications might be prescribed in more severe cases.

Mysterious Symptoms

Pale and/or ridged nail beds, lethargy, heart palpitations, pale or sallow skin

Might Mean You Have

Anaemia. It occurs when your blood is low in haemoglobin, a molecule that transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron deficiency is most common in women who have heavy periods or are pregnant (the growing foetus has a high demand for iron). Vegetarians are also at risk because red meat is a primary source of iron. The condition may also develop if you over-use pain medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, because these medications can cause bleeding in the stomach lining, which results in greater blood loss and, therefore, iron loss.

Diagnosis

Ask your doctor for a routine complete blood count to check your haemoglobin level. These blood tests also help determine which nutrient is lacking.

Treatment

Anaemia is typically treated with iron supplements and/or prescription medications. Eating foods rich in iron (ie red meat, spinach, lentils, dried fruits) can also help prevent and treat this condition.

Mysterious Symptoms

Constant widespread aches and pains, stiffness, insomnia, fatigue, headaches

Might Mean You Have

Fibromyalgia. "Unlike rheumatoid arthritis where the pain is specific to certain joints, fibromyalgia pain occurs all over the body," says John Klippel, president of the Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta, US. Although researchers are starting to better understand what it is, its cause remains unexplained.

Diagnosis

See a rheumatologist, who is likely to be more familiar with fibromyalgia than a general internist.

Treatment

Experts suggests sleep well, exercise sensibly to relieve pain and try to cut down on stress. There are currently no medication specifically for fibromyalgia, so it's typically treated with a combination of pain relievers and lifestyle therapies such as gentle exercise and anti-depressants. In some cases, however, Doctor says that anti-anxiety agents might be used to help manage the symptoms. Even though depression isn't a primary symptom of fibromyalgia, researchers recently found that some anti-depressant medications help to reduce the insomnia and muscle aches associated with the condition.

 

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