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The Most Common Misdiagnosed Illnesses

No doctor has to get every diagnosis right every time. All doctors, however, must do their best to come to the correct diagnoses based on the process of eliminations. Physicians must use specific standards of care according to medical industry regulations to diagnose patients. Failure to do so, resulting in the wrong diagnosis and harm to the patient, is medical malpractice. Even without malpractice present, however, some illnesses are more difficult to diagnose than others. It is important to get multiple professional opinions for difficult diagnoses.


Certain cancers are commonly misdiagnosed, including breast, colon, pancreatic and lung cancer. It can be deadly to misdiagnose cancer, as prompt treatment may be the only thing that can save the patient. If a doctor fails to diagnose cancer until stage three or four, for example, this could drastically change the patient’s prognosis for recovery compared to a prognosis at stage one or two. Vice versa, it can be highly traumatic for a patient to receive a cancer diagnosis if he or she does not actually have cancer.

Heart Attack or Stroke

A negligent doctor may mistake a heart attack or stroke for something more minor, such as indigestion, acid reflux or anxiety. This misdiagnosis can be fatal, as the patient may miss the only opportunity to seek treatments, such as medications, to prevent a second heart attack or stroke. A patient should always seek a second medical opinion after something that resembles a heart attack, especially if the patient has previously existing cardiovascular problems or a family history of heart attacks.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease stems from the bite of a tick that carries this bacteria. It is a serious illness that can cause multiple symptoms – many of which mimic other conditions, making it hard to correctly diagnose. Symptoms can include muscle soreness, neck stiffness, twitching muscles, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, weight loss, shortness of breath, soreness in the chest or ribs, and rash. The rash often resembles a bullseye, with a central redpoint surrounded by concentric circles.


Sepsis is a life-threatening infection of the blood. Delayed diagnosis of sepsis can have a serious, sometimes fatal, impact on the patient. Delayed treatments can contribute to organ failure, amputation, and wrongful death. Symptoms of sepsis can include fever, chills, low body temperature, rapid pulse, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can mimic pulmonary embolism, bowel obstruction, pancreatitis, and many other conditions.

Multiple Sclerosis

It can be difficult to diagnose multiple sclerosis due to its wide range of potential symptoms. The symptoms of this immune system disease can include blurred vision, dizziness, weakness, muscle spasms, loss of coordination and balance, and cognitive challenges. It may take tests such as MRIs, lumbar punctures and blood analyses to detect characteristic signs of multiple sclerosis and make the correct diagnosis.

Parkinson’s Disease

This degenerative disorder does not have any lab tests that can diagnose it for a patient. Instead, a doctor must rely on clinical exams and an overview of the patient’s symptoms to correctly identify Parkinson’s. This central nervous system disorder can cause uncontrollable tremors in parts of the body, as well as muscle stiffness, balance problems and trouble walking.


Fibromyalgia can cause symptoms such as muscle soreness, joint pain, widespread chronic pain, heightened sensitivity to pain in certain areas, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Since these symptoms can also occur with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and lupus, doctors often misdiagnose fibromyalgia.

Were You Misdiagnosed?

Not all medical misdiagnoses are malpractice. Sometimes physicians get it wrong even when they do everything by the books. If, however, one doctor negligently misdiagnosed a condition that another doctor reasonably would have been able to identify, and the misdiagnosis caused you harm, you could have a medical malpractice claim. Find out if your misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or lack of a diagnosis qualifies you for compensation by talking to a failure to diagnose lawyer in Richmond today.