When you go to see the doctor because you are sick, the first order of business is to get a diagnosis. How does the doctor arrive at that? What does she need to know? And is there any way you can help your doctors with diagnostic challenges?
Getting the right diagnosis is crucial to getting the proper treatment. For many conditions, the diagnosis is pretty straightforward. But sometimes it can be quite complicated. The doctor may need to figure out which of many different diseases is causing the problems. When symptoms are not very specific, pinning down the diagnosis is a challenge. But diagnosis can also be difficult if the symptom is very specific but unfamiliar, like a black thumb on a gardener.
It can be tricky to distinguish between a physiological condition that causes psychiatric symptoms and a psychiatric disorder that causes real physical symptoms. Find out how to get a truly independent second opinion, and why you should keep your primary care provider in the loop. When is it helpful to search the internet, and when might that be useless?
Lisa Sanders, MD, is a clinician educator in the Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency Program at Yale School of Medicine. In addition to her work as a physician and teacher, she writes the popular Diagnosis column for the New York Times Magazine. Her column was the inspiration for the Fox program "House MD" (2004-2012) and she served as a technical adviser to the show.
Her books include Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis.