12 common complaints frequently misdiagnosed by GPs

Recent reports have highlight that patients may be suffering as GPs are unable to keep up with fast-paced developments in medical research and technology.  The concern is that this could lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment.

Our GPs are already under huge pressure and new changes such as no minimum time limit allocated to each appointment will only add to their burden.

Some of the country’s leading medical experts have identified the 12 most common health issues which can lead to misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment:-

1. Faulty Heartbeat –patients suffering from “atrial fibrillation” or irregular heart rhythm are fives times more likely to suffer a stroke and should ideally be prescribed anti-coagulants rather than the traditional aspirin-like products which can have the opposite effect

2. Abdominal pain –.  When faced by this condition GPs often send the patient for an endoscopy but the experts say that, statistically,  this can be caused by gallstones which would not be picked up by an endoscopy and need a blood test or ultrasound instead.

3. Bloated stomach – this can often be diagnosed as IBS.  However as it can also suggest ovarian cancer the report recommends further investigation and the difference can be that whilst IBS pain comes and goes, pain and bloating from ovarian cancer is often constant.

4. Migraine – traditional medical thinking  is that a headache has to have an ‘aura’ (seeing things like dark spots, zig-zig lines ) to warrant a diagnosis of a migraine.  Current thinking is that not  all patients have these symptoms but are still experiencing a migraine which normal painkillers which will not resolve.

5. Eczema – GPs can be quick to diagnose eczema and prescribe a hydrocortisone cream for skin rashes but often this treatment and  the use of the cream.  In addition, aqueous cream should not be prescribed at all as it damages the skin.

6. Blocked nose – often prescribed a nasal spray or antibiotics with a diagnosis of nasal congestion.  GPs should refer to a specialist as it could suggest other things such as a deviated septum or polyps.

7. Shoulder pain – patients should be referred for an ultrasound as the source of the pain can be difficult to diagnose.  Anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy should not be prescribed in the first instance. Sometimes physiotherapy could do more damage than good.

8. Muscus in throat – GPs often refer patients for further tests but more commonly it could be a symptom of acid reflux and may only need a front-line treatment such as Gaviscon.

9. Inflamed Painful joint – It is important for GPs to refer patients quickly within 4 weeks of diagnosis as the prognosis is much better.  The signs of swelling with joint pain, early morning stiffness, anaemia and generally feeling under the weather need to be spotted quicker by GPs.

10. Swollen leg – GPs often prescribe antibiotics thinking it is an infection but usually it is superficial phlebitis where a superficial vein becomes inflamed and a blood clot forms within the vein.  It can be caused by an injury to any vein.  It can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs but antibiotics would not have any effect.

11. Middle-Aged Spread – Many GPs who are presented with overweight men aged 40 and older to have a cholesterol test.  However, middle-aged men who are overweight, with a BMI over 25 also have an increased risk of prostate cancer so PSA test should also be offered.

12. Hearing loss – GPs sometimes dismiss sudden hearing loss as ear wax or fluid from an ear infection or cold.  However, it could be a condition called sensorineural hearing loss which requires immediate treatment to prevent permanent hearing loss.  GPs sometimes don’t have the training to diagnose this condition which can be caused by a cold, virus or infection which travels to the inner ear.

It is important to discuss things openly with your GP and don’t be afraid to ask questions!