How to Narrow Down the True Cause of Your Illness

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Doctor flipping coin

How often has your doctor tried multiple therapies to treat your illness unsuccessfully—or suggested another invasive treatment regimen that looks highly questionable?  You are not alone.  Each year, an estimated 60 million patients go home with a misdiagnosis of their health condition; hospital autopsies regularly reveal that at least twenty percent of serious patient illnesses are misdiagnosed.  One study shows the typical patient returns to the doctor’s office with the same malady an average of four times before they are successfully treated.

Unfortunately, most patients are reluctant to argue with their doctor about their diagnosis and recommended treatment.  Many doctors express their findings in such arcane medical terms they make their patients feel ill-informed and unprepared to question the basis and validity of the recommendations they receive.  Compounding the issue, many patients seeking treatment are in pain and desperate to try anything their health care professional suggests will resolve their problem.

Most of us place our health care providers on a pedestal, thinking they are the supreme arbiters of medical advice and omniscient in all things relating to our bodies.  As a result we usually submit to their recommendations, even when 85% of all physical examinations result in some kind of invasive test, 64% require taking some kind of prescription, and up to 9% involves some kind of surgery.  An increasing number of patients go online (either before or after their appointment) to evaluate their symptoms and treatment options, but most throw up their hands when presented with a wide range of possibilities or worst-case scenarios.

Few patients nowadays are prepared or equipped to properly evaluate the true cause of their illness and identify the least invasive treatment option.  In my experience treating clients with a broad range of undiagnosed and misdiagnosed maladies, the true source of one’s illness can be narrowed down with a bit of simple fact-finding.  The key to identifying the likely suspects and ruling out the unlikely suspects is in defining what IS and what is NOT being affected.

I had a client who suffered with severe recurring sinus infections for many years.  His doctors submitted him to repeated invasive treatment programs involving heavy duty antibiotics and nasal irrigation, to little or no effect.  At one point they even suggested he move or consider giving up his dogs, as they conjectured he was allergic to the animals on his farm.  When we asked some simple questions about who was being affected and who wasn’t, he revealed that his eldest daughter also suffered with similar and fairly synchronized infections, but that his wife and other daughter never did.  He also revealed that he had lived on another farm property in the past and neither he nor his daughter experienced any of these symptoms.  This ‘IS NOT’ information ruled out the possibility of farm animals or crops causing the problem, and when we focused on what was unique about the current farm compared to the old one, especially as it pertained to the affected household members, we were able to quickly and decisively narrow in on the use of a wood stove in the basement where only the father and daughter exercised using their home gym.

Another example of a rush to judgment and ill-advised drug treatment for a scary malady occurred with another client who woke up every morning with severe red eyes covering the entire white part (sclera) of both eyes.  His previous physicians surmised this was being caused by overly dry eyes due to sleeping with his eyes open (how they identified this I am uncertain) and prescribed that he take Visine eye drops every evening before he went to bed and every morning when he woke up—indefinitely. Upon closer evaluation, we discovered the problem only started after he moved from his native India to Albuquerque, New Mexico—specifically after hiking one day into the high mountains outside the city.  We hypothesized that the extreme and rapid change in elevation and accompanying air pressure between the two regions (air pressure drops with higher elevation) caused the blood vessels in his eyes to expand and rupture, filling his eyes with blood.  We then tested and ruled out the dry eyes diagnosis by having him sleep one night with a moist washcloth over his eyes, which did not solve the problem.  Thinking the Visine eye drops only temporarily constricted the blood vessels in his eyes after which they returned to their previous state, we had him set his alarm to apply the drops every two hours during the night, and for the first time in many months he woke up to clear eyes.  The more effective and less drug-dependent long term solution to his problem was to allow his eyes to slowly acclimate to higher elevations and also look at ways to improve his vascular health through diet and exercise changes.

So the next time your personal physician issues a hasty diagnosis after only seeing you for a few minutes then recommending a highly invasive program of further tests, drugs, or surgery, try taking a few minutes to gather some simple facts to validate the diagnosis and evaluate the least invasive long term solution to your malady.  It’s possible your doctor doesn’t always ‘know best’: you have the best knowledge of your body and the history of each of your illness—use this knowledge to become a more empowered and healthy patient!

By Reid Jenner

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