How to Avoid a Misdiagnosis

Can't stop coughing? Concerned about your vision? Find out the simple symptoms you should never ignore, and the questions you should be asking your doctor to avoid a misdiagnosis.

Symptoms: Nausea, Vomiting and Loss of Appetite
Chandra Wilson stars as tough-as-nails Dr. Miranda Bailey who takes on any medical challenge on the ABC drama Grey's Anatomy, but off camera, the award-winning actress is a busy mom of three who never expected a medical mystery to strike her own family.

Chandra's 17-year-old daughter, Sarina, experienced a sudden onset of severe nausea and vomiting that kept her from eating for five days. After receiving treatment at the emergency room, it was assumed that Sarina's symptoms were due to food poisoning. One month later, the symptoms returned and Chandra knew a repeat offense warranted further medical attention.

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After undergoing all available tests, Sarina was diagnosed with cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), a condition that often goes misdiagnosed and affects 2 percent of school-aged children.

"CVS [is caused by] both genetic and environmental components, and research is still being done on this syndrome," medical geneticist Dr. Richard Bowles says.

Though there is no clinically proven cause for CVS, it may be due to a mitochondrial deficiency, which hinders the body's ability to metabolize energy. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue, which are also telling of other conditions, such as the stomach flu, leading to frequent misdiagnoses.

"Once Sarina was diagnosed, we had an action plan to avoid an episode," Chandra says. "We are four months episode-free right now, but still guardedly optimistic."

E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork advises parents to seek further medical attention if a child is repeatedly diagnosed with the stomach flu, as he or she could be suffering from CVS.

• Find out which stomach symptoms could indicate celiac disease.

Symptoms: Upset Stomach and Fatigue

"Your body lets you know when something's wrong," Dr. Travis says. "But sometimes, common symptoms may mean more than you think they do."

Upset stomach and fatigue can be symptoms of a silent migraine. This condition often goes misdiagnosed as a typical migraine, because all the signs are present without an actual headache.

What Common Symptoms Can Reveal

Steps to Heart Health

Learn how to lead a heart-healthy life.

Heart-Healthy Tips

• Avoid saturated fat and trans-fats

• Get regular checkups
• Exercise

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Symptoms: Heartburn, Abdominal Pain, Fatigue
Every 25 seconds, someone will experience a coronary event, and every minute, someone will die from one. Heart disease is the number one killer of American men and women, and symptoms don't stop at dizziness, chest pain and difficulty breathing. People,
particularly women, will experience a wide array of symptoms.

Misdiagnosed Symptoms in Women
• Heartburn
• Abdominal Pain
• Backache
• Fatigue

Though heart disease is so prevalent in the United States, there are ways to prevent it. Start by eliminating excessive sodium from your diet, reducing fat intake and staying active.

Symptom: Sudden Blurred Vision
A sudden change in vision, such as blurriness or complete blindness in one eye, could be an early warning sign of a stroke due to a blood clot blocking oxygen flow to the retina.

OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson confirms that 55,000 more women will suffer from strokes than men in the next year. "It's extremely important not to ignore signs and symptoms of things," she says.

Most common symptoms of a stroke:

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• Weakness
• Numbness
• Confusion
• Facial droop
• Loss of balance

• Learn how doctors treat a stroke.

Your Family, Unplugged

Studies show that one in 10 kids is seriously addicted to videogames and media, and those who watch more than four hours of TV per day are at greater risk of heart disease as they grow older. The Winter of Our Disconnect by Dr. Susan Maushart, documents her six-month experiment of going unplugged to re-connect with her family.

"Have an unplugged night with your family," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears recommends. "You'll find that the less kids use electronics, the more their grades go up."

• Kids in Sports: Learn the importance of sports physicals.

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OAD 2/23/11