Misdiagnosis kills hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. each year

Medical misdiagnoses are a problem faced by millions of people around the world. A new study by scientists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has found that the number of Americans suffering from the irreversible consequences of such errors is much higher than previously thought. About 795,000 people have been disabled or died as a result of misdiagnoses. The researchers found that the number of people affected could be as high as 1.02 million.

Why are misdiagnoses becoming such a serious problem? Dr. David Newman-Toker, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Diagnostic Excellence, calls them “the most deficient public health crisis.” This is because diagnostic errors can have serious consequences for patients and can lead to disability or even death.

Which diseases are most commonly misdiagnosed? The study found that the top five such conditions include stroke, sepsis, pneumonia, venous thromboembolism and lung cancer. These errors often occur when patients exhibit symptoms other than those normally associated with the disease.

For example, a stroke is usually accompanied by weakness on one side of the body and speech impairment. However, Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out that there may be other signs such as dizziness, headaches and fatigue that doctors may mistake for less serious problems.

So how can you reduce the risk of misdiagnoses?

Dr. Gupta suggests some simple questions patients can ask their doctor:

1. What could be the cause of my problem?
2. What else could it be?
3. When will I get my test results and what should I do to follow up?

The second question is particularly important. Physicians who see many patients may need help thinking outside the box and out of the box in their daily practice.

However, the good news is that only 15 diseases account for more than 50% of misdiagnoses. A better understanding of the rare symptoms and treatments for these diseases can significantly reduce the number of errors.

For example, lung cancer is one such disease. The American Cancer Society recommends that people at high risk for lung cancer undergo low-dose CT scans. This screening method has a better chance of detecting the disease early than a traditional chest X-ray.

In conclusion, medical misdiagnoses are a serious problem faced by millions of people. However, patient awareness and continued research can be our most powerful weapon against this health crisis.

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