5 Things Doctors Can Get Wrong

Ask Your Doctor: For an Ober’s test, a physical exam that reveals injuries to the IT band.

Misdiagnosis 3: Sinus Headache
What it actually could be:

Researchers at the American Headache Society examined 100 people with brain pain and found 86 percent of those who thought they had sinus headaches actually had migraines. “If a doctor hears ‘facial pressure,’ he’ll assume sinus headache,” says Craig Schwimmer, M.D., an otolaryngologist in Dallas, Texas. But sinus meds can’t defeat the heavyweight of headaches.

Ask Your Doctor: To refer you to a neurologist if your headaches occur regularly for more than two weeks.

Misdiagnosis 4: Bronchitis
What it actually could be:

If you hack it up hard after each cold you catch, the culprit could be “hidden” asthma, says Sidney S. Braman, M.D., a professor of medicine at Brown University medical school. “You shouldn’t develop a nagging cough with every cold,” he says. “If so, a bug may be triggering asthma you didn’t know you had.”

Ask Your Doctor: To set up a pulmonary-function test to measure lung strength. Lung capacity lower than 80 percent may signal asthma.

Misdiagnosis 5: Appendicitis
What it actually could be:

An inflamed lymph node or stomach virus

Despite advances in diagnostic screening, 16 percent of appendectomies are performed on patients who don’t need them, according to a recent University of Washington study. Appendicitis can be deadly, so doctors are quick to remove the 6-centimeter organ before doing a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. An inflamed lymph node or virus could produce similar symptoms (and not require surgery).

Ask Your Doctor: To give you a blood test. If it reveals that your white-cell count is over 10,000 cells per microliter, ask for a CT scan of your stomach.

Remember that doctors are only human (and very busy ones at that). It’s in your best interest as a patient to arm yourself with the right information and tools to help them help you: when it comes to your health, you and your doctor are partners, and each has a very important job to do.