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Study: Doctors mix up intestinal diseases 10% of the time

Some illnesses have similar symptoms, but are actually quite different. If a doctor confuses a patient’s actual disorder with another one, the patient may receive inappropriate medication or treatment that does nothing to restore them to health. In fact, they will likely get worse as their disease progresses unimpeded.

A new study suggests that doctors misdiagnose 10 percent of people with an inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. Instead, they give patients a false diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. These illnesses have similar symptoms, such as diarrhea, cramping and pain, at least in their early stages.

However, later on, IBD illnesses like Crohn’s disease can cause life-threatening complications, and surgery on the patient’s intestines may be required. Obviously, patients would rather receive early intervention to avoid this stage, but that is not possible when their doctor misdiagnoses their IBD for IBS.

Because the difference between them can appear subtle, one may think doctors can be excused for making an error 10 percent of the time. But the study notes that physicians have been aware for some time that the diseases appear similar at first, which implies that caution should be applied when making a diagnosis. Also, the study says a test exists to help doctors distinguish between the illnesses.

One in 10 odds of getting your intestinal disease misdiagnosed sounds like poor odds, especially if this is due to a doctor’s insufficient attention to detail, or failure to order a necessary test.