Doctors aren't perfect.
Many are them are excellent at their jobs. However, diagnosing a patient's symptoms isn't always easy. That's why it's up to their patients to advocate for themselves and be as open, direct, and as honest as possible about any and all of their symptoms.
Doctors––and some patients––told us about medical problems that were eventually detected and treated after Redditor kramboll asked the online community,
"Doctors of Reddit, what's your "I'm glad you mentioned that symptom" moment?"
"Family member recently had a breast cancer diagnosis and in passing mentioned their hip hurting really badly. The oncologist decided to stage the cancer immediately and it had spread to the bones, specifically the hip and spine. Was encroaching on the spinal cord…they started radiation fairly quickly and were able to control its progression on the spine before starting hormonal treatment. But it's a good thing they did mention the hip pain as they usually don't like to "complain" as they put it."
Sounds like you found it right on time – and there's no doubt that patient was grateful.
"We worked together..."
"Absolutely lovely patient presented with low back pain. We worked together for a few weeks, she was getting better, and she mentioned she got up several times a night to urinate. She was relatively young, that isn't super normal, so I asked how often. Six to eight times a night! Not only was she exhausted from lack of sleep, she mentioned intercourse had been painful for years since the birth of her child. She thought it was normal, and just suffered through.
No one wants to talk about urinary or fecal incontinence or pain with intercourse, but it happens so frequently in reproductive age women I've started screening questions so I can direct people to pelvic floor physical therapy. She caught up with me later and said the PT was life-changing."
"I went to my doctor..."
I was getting awful brain fog, getting pretty sleepy in the day but almost insomnia at night, I'd get random heart palpitations that made me feel sick, manic states of anxiety at night, and I'd get a UTI pretty much every other month. I felt like I was losing my mind. My partner at the time just said I needed to exercise and lose weight. My doctors in the UK said I was just getting older and the UTIs were normal for reproductive age.
I went to my doctor to talk about getting another set of antibiotics for a new UTI when I mentioned I had been getting some heart palpitations, luckily he probed further and sent me for a blood test. Turns out I have a lifelong autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid, essentially depriving me of hormones and sending my adrenal gland into overdrive.
Now I'm medicated I no longer have any of those symptoms aside from afternoon sleepiness. I hate to think what state I'd be in if I didn't get it sorted when I did."
Good thing you spoke up, right? Well done.
"I had stomach pains for months and kept going back to my GP about it. We tried tons of different meds, but I still kept waking up in the night with this horrible stomach pain.
Finally, probably my 7th or 8th appointment, I mentioned having shoulder pain when my stomach hurt. Boom. She immediately knew I had gallstones and had to have my gallbladder removed. I think because I was young and in good health, it didn't even occur to her until I mentioned the shoulder pain. Apparently, that's a symptom of gallstones.
Doctors aren't perfect, but people have to be their biggest health advocates. If I had just given up or gotten frustrated, I might never have figured out the problem."
This is 100% true. Speak up! You know your body better than anyone, so you might as well be open and direct.
"My eye doctor mentioned..."
"Patient here. My eye doctor mentioned in passing that I needed to come in if I ever saw new flashes or floaters. I am young, but very nearsighted. Months later I started seeing flashes. I wasn't worried about it, but did have my doctor's voice in my head so I made an appointment. Sure enough my retina had detached and I needed emergency surgery to save my vision. I am so thankful the eye doctor casually mentioned that and I listened to my gut."
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"I had a dude come in with abdo pain and vomiting. Had been vomiting for days. Was going down the surgical route with him until he mentioned that he showered up to 20 times a day to help with the pain. Turned out he had classic cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome."
This is is a condition that sometimes develops due to the long-term use of marijuana. The syndrome causes repeated and severe vomiting and nausea. As CHS is a newly described condition, many doctors may find it challenging to diagnose and treat.
"At one point..."
"Doctor currently in residency here.
Had a patient I was taking care of in the inpatient medical ward who was admitted for seizures in the context of alcohol withdrawal. He was a young guy who had become depressed due to several life stressors including divorce and losing his job which exacerbated his pre-existing alcohol use disorder. He also was extremely malnourished (not uncommon in alcoholics) and had a very low BMI. Apparently he had zero appetite due to depression."
"At one point he had started feeling better and his appetite improved. However, his heart rate was consistently very high for no clear reason and he was experiencing palpitations. I had a hunch to check electrolytes and several had dropped to very low levels. The reason for this is something called "refeeding syndrome". Basically if someone has not eaten for a while and suddenly starts eating a lot, they become very insulin sensitive which can lead to electrolyte disturbances that can cause abnormal heart rhythms and even death.
We put him on continuous cardiac monitoring and aggressively replaced his electrolytes, but it was scary how at risk he was to going into an arrhythmia simply for just eating food."
"I was a patient. I'd gone in to see one doctor, complaining of headaches. My eye was red and swollen, and I was sensitive to light. She said it was allergies and migraines, and told me to use eye drops and take Midol. After two weeks, it was so much worse, so I saw a different doctor in the same building. I gave her all the same symptoms, but this is where I changed it: I said "the pain in my head is so bad, it's only on this side, it feels like fireworks behind my eye, and I want to take a knife and cut my head right here" - I pointed directly at my temple- "so the pressure can be released."
"Apparently, the delusion of believing I'd survive that, combined with the way I described the pain, clicked something in her brain. 20 minutes later I was on the way to the ER with a diagnosis of orbital cellulitis which was eating its way towards my brain and had been for nearly three weeks. They were close to removing my eye and surrounding tissue but I luckily responded to the emergency antibiotics. The pain was so bad that I was screaming even on morphine. Eventually, they switched me to Dilaudid when my dad mentioned that morphine didn't help him or my grandfather. I guess we metabolize it too quickly or something? So I learned two things that night lmao
If I hadn't mentioned how severe the pain was and the lengths I'd go to for it to stop, I don't know if they would have caught it before there were more serious consequences."
The lesson here, and I'll repeat it: Be your own advocate. You are your best advocate. Speak up: You'll be happy you did and doctors will thank you later.
Have stories of your own? Feel free to tell us more in the comments below.
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