There's nothing worse than living a life of pain, discomfort, and uncertainty and then having doctors and loved ones dismissing the pain felt every day. Though it's understandable that some conditions have similar symptoms to others and it's easy to mess up diagnoses in the early stages of an illness, but some doctors are straight up negligent and sadly misdiagnoses are all too common. These patients took to Reddit to speak on the grueling misdiagnoses they experienced due to a negligent doctor who never took their pain seriously. Content has been edited for clarity.
There’s More Going On Than A Stomach Ache
“I went into a local ER after a night of constant vomiting and having been unable to hold down anything so my mom got scared and drove me. The doctor on call thought/insisted that it was from drinking too much. My mom had been with me the whole time and tried explaining to the doctor I hadn’t been drinking, but he ignored her, and I was incoherent with pain to affirm/deny his accusation. He just told me to drink water and get sleep.
I ended up returning two days later with mind-blowing abdominal pain. I was diagnosed with severe appendicitis and peritonitis. I went in for emergency surgery and it was discovered that I had developed gangrene in my abdomen. I also apparently had blood poisoning and my organs were trying to start shutting down. So when I woke up the next morning with a ton of tubes/staples coming out of me and the new knowledge of my misdiagnosis, I was a little angry.”
“I Thought I Was Dealt The Death Card”
“I had this bump on my tongue, my doctor told me it could be a sign of HIV, and gave no other explanations of what else it could be. I had all my labs done and an HIV test done. I had only been with two people, and yet felt like I had been sleeping with the whole town.
I called my boyfriend (who is now my husband) crying, and telling him he needed to get tested. I had to wait two weeks (this was back in 2000). I remember holding the sides of the table in the waiting room for the announcement of impending doom. Another doctor came in giving me the results of my labs and went to leave.
I asked, ‘Um what about my HIV test?’
She looked at me like I was nuts, and said ‘Uh, no HIV, you are fine.’ She asked me why I was worried, and I showed her the bump on my tongue, and told her what the previous doctor had said. She had this look of shock and horror on her face and said ‘Yeah that is due to a vitamin deficiency, just take a good multivitamin, and you will be fine.’
Here I was thinking I was dealt the death card, but I just needed more vitamins.”
Always Ask For A Second Opinion
“The summer my children were 9 and 6, I took them with me to a doctor’s appointment to have a growth on my scalp checked out. It hadn’t been there two months prior, so on the way to grandma’s I decided to get it checked out at our local walk-in medical center.
Within minutes, my children and I are in an examination room talking about what to get for lunch after I see the doctor. I reassure my guys that mommy just has a little bump on her head that she wanted the doctor to look at. The doctor comes in, takes one look at my scalp and tells me it’s small cell carcinoma and by the size of it, it’s quite advanced and that I should start thinking about my final arrangement as I probably only have two to three months left to live.
As he’s saying this, I am looking at my kids’ faces wishing he would just shut up and wondering how he can be so matter of fact in front of them. The doctor finishes delivering my death sentence and promptly walks out. At this point, my boys are crying and their eyes are HUGE with terror. ‘Are you going to die?’ is a question I didn’t know how to answer when my 9-year-old asked me.
I called my husband, my mother, and my dermatologist. I told the dermatologist the story and got an appointment for the very next morning.
I show up at the dermatologist, she takes her one look and declares it a wart (I was grossed out but relieved) and she removed it right then and there. So yeah, I got to see the fear of my imminent death in my children’s eyes over a wart.”
Yeah, That’s The Every Day Pink Eye
“My senior year of college, I appeared to have contracted a case of ‘pink eye.’ I stopped by the college medical center, no one argued with my assumed diagnosis, and they gave me pink eye drops of some sort to get rid of it within a week supposedly.
Two weeks go by and it does not seem to be getting any better, so I manage to get an appointment with an actual eye doctor. He continues to not necessarily argue with the diagnosis and gives me something stronger(?) that should clear it up.
After another month goes by (due to tricking myself into thinking it was getting better), I get another check-up from the eye doctor pointing out that I thought things were getting better, but they seem to be getting worse now. They seem secretly worried and surprised to see such a thing. Two weeks later, I finally receive a phone call that starts with the question ‘Have you ever heard of Chlamydia?’
I’ve never looked up anything on Google as fast as the words ‘Chlamydia STD permanent?’ in all my life. By the end of said Google search, I have the knowledge that Chlamydia of the eye is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. It only took him three months to figure it out. So yup, there’s that.
I have no idea if extra details or fun facts will be wanted for this story, but I certainly have more. Like the fact that I simply used the fact I had a ‘clam eye’ to make my zombie costume more convincing that Halloween. That, and the fact that a random customer at the store I was working at diagnosed my eye correctly two months before anyone else did. I just had no reason to taker her seriously. It was more of an ‘eff you’ type moment.”
Are They Sure It’s Gout?!
“A few years ago, I suddenly got an excruciating pain in my foot, swelling from the toes halfway up my shins. It hurt so bad that the weight of a bed sheet resting on it had me in tears. I went to a walk-in clinic and was told I had gout and prescribed some kind of gout medication. I was a healthy 19-year old girl, so gout seemed like kind of an odd diagnosis, but it’s possible.
I was living paycheck to paycheck at the time and had absolutely no money to get the prescription filled. I ended up at another doctor who x-rayed my foot and discovered that I have an extra bone branching off of my big toe and it was a sort of repetitive stress injury.
The worst part is that after looking up the gout med I was prescribed, it turns out it can fatally mess up your kidneys if you don’t actually have gout.”
Sometimes Doctors Don’t Know Best
“I started twitching when I was in the sixth grade and a neurologist understandably assumed that it was Tourette’s. I can’t really blame him for that one.
Even as tons of evidence to the contrary began to pile up, he stuck by the same diagnosis he had thrown at me the first time I visited his office. Throughout all of this, I was desperately trying to get him to pay attention to the shoddy state of my immune system. At this point in my life, I had already become asymptomatic for strep and got, at least, an infection a month. When my twitching ceased for more than three months, I suddenly failed to meet the diagnostic criteria for Tourette’s and he stuck me with a diagnosis of ‘Nothing.’
This case of ‘Nothing’ required Risperidone (Schizophrenia), Aricept (Alzheimer’s), Klonopin/Trazadone/Remeron (insomnia), Tenex (ADD), and many more. I was twelve at the time and still have a difficult time remembering that year. I didn’t really know any better and continued to see him until I was fifteen when the aforementioned ‘evidence to the contrary’ could no longer be ignored.
While in his care, I developed Narcolepsy, Cervical Dystonia, Epilepsy, and experienced plenty more transient conditions. For the last year that I was a patient of his, I had been struggling to convince him that I had an immune disorder. He didn’t think my theory was worth even a referral to a more knowledgeable specialist. Somehow this neurologist knew without any shred of doubt that my immune system was fine. The last time I visited him, I sobbed in his office, begging him to help me and he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you.’
Turns out, I had a massive, unchecked infection that had reached my nervous system. Had it been caught in the first stages it could have been completely forgotten about with two weeks of antibiotics. Instead, after a year of high dose antimicrobial therapy (for more than just that infection) at seventeen years old, I am permanently damaged. My symptoms have improved drastically and I have forgiven most of the doctors that missed my diagnosis over the years, but I can’t seem to forget the one that kept me under his care for three years without ever having the courtesy to even entertain the notion of a diagnosis. Had he not been content with throwing pills at me, had he looked at all, my infection could have been found quickly and easily. But, from what I can tell, he had no interest in taking advice from some stupid kid even though I was pointing him in the right direction.
I try my best to tell myself that he couldn’t have been expected to listen to me, but I can’t accept that. He should have listened to my results. I got my blood drawn once a week while under his care and not once did it come up without an infection. Not a single time. That any doctor, immunologist or otherwise, wouldn’t think that at least hinted to an immune disease is absurd.”
There Was A Reason She Was Acting So Crazy
“My memories of this are a little fuzzy because I was a kid and very ill. I lost 40% of my body weight in two months (despite an unending appetite), was quite erratic, and, for lack of a better term, ‘crazy.’ I was diagnosed as bulimic, OCD, ADHD, and a few other things. I actually had hyperthyroidism.
I was prescribed psychiatric meds because it seemed to be a psychiatric problem and I was clearly in crisis. They made things worse, because of the misdiagnosis. I had hallucinations on Ritalin – bugs and snakes covering the walls, not unlike a scene in ‘The Craft.’ It was very unsettling, especially to a child in a fragile emotional state.
Ritalin can cause something called stimulant psychosis, even at therapeutic doses under doctor supervision.
Another time, I had a sore throat and getting up for work was getting extremely difficult. After a month of salt gargles and morning pep talks in the mirror, I took a day off and went to the doctor. She thought I had hypochondria and ihatemyjobitis. I actually had mononucleosis and an extremely enlarged spleen. To be fair, I did not have a fever, swollen glands, or exhaustion.”
She Needs New Doctors
“First, I went to the hospital after peeing blood all day and after suddenly having passed multiple kidney stones. The ER doctor was a total dirtbag and was close to the end of his shift. I told him I knew kidney stone pain, but he refused to do a CT scan. He told me to suck it up and sent me home with the diagnosis of a UTI. Fast forward two hours when I pass out from pain: my boyfriend rushed me back to the ER, the doctor immediately sends me for a CT, since I’d mentioned that I had Medullary Sponge Kidneys, which should’ve been a red flag to the other doctor. I was in surgery within thirty minutes. I was septic, had stones, blocking both kidneys, that were both over half an inch long.
Second, and probably worse than above, I was told the day I was scheduled for a certain type of fertility test that I was pregnant. I knew something wasn’t right. My OB did blood work and refused to do a sonogram. A week later, I start to bleed. I go to my OB, he does a sonogram of only my uterus, and says I’ve had a miscarriage. Blood work two days later showed my levels to be increasing. He ignores it. The next Monday, I’m at work and I’m in the worst pain I’ve ever been in. I leave early, call my husband to tell him what was wrong, and he tells me not to worry about it. I call my OB, who tells me I’m overreacting and that I need to go home and take pain meds and a Phenergan and sleep it off. I call my husband back and tell him I won’t be able to get out of the car by myself. He meets me in the driveway and catches me as I black out. He drives me to the ER, tell them I’d had a miscarriage a week prior, and that I ‘seem to enjoy ER visits.’
Fortunately they see the miscarriage and my writhing around on the bed while blacked out, as major red flags and immediately do a sonogram. Then they call my dirtbag of a doctor to tell him that, not only did I not have a miscarriage, but I was still pregnant. It was a 12-week ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured and I was bleeding out. Again, immediately taken back to surgery. I had over 450cc of blood in my abdomen. I lost my right Fallopian tube, and had major blood loss. It was horrific.
My doctor acted like he was mad that he was proven wrong, forgetting that I’m a mother, and that his mess up could’ve left my son without a mother.
I actually have two more. I need new doctors!
I gained a significant amount of weight over a two-year period. I went to my primary care doctor, told her I was eating well, and doing Pilates for 90 minutes very day. She told me I was lying about what I was eating. Fast forward two years of suffering many miscarriages: my OBGYN asks if my primary care doctor had ever tested my thyroid. Nope. It wasn’t functioning. I’d gained almost 50 pounds and lost many pregnancies because my doctor never tested my thyroid.
I was also told by the same primary care doctor that I didn’t have gall stones. She’d run blood work, which didn’t show gall stone issues in my mother or sister, and said she could do a sonogram to see, but she didn’t believe it was the problem. I was so sick that I threw up every day, all day for over a year. I finally flipped out in her office and told her to order the freaking sonogram already! She did and I was right. I had surgery the next day.”
They Could Have Just Given Them The X-Ray
“To make a long story short, when I was 12, the front wheel came off my bike at a high speed.
I arrived at the hospital with two broken teeth and substantial lacerations on my chin and the knuckle of one finger in addition to the other relatively inconsequential effects of sliding down the road on one’s face. The finger hurt so much that I was basically unaware of the other injuries.
After a half hour or so, I’m attended by the one person in the world I did not want to encounter in an emergency room…my family doctor.
As he’s putting 14 stitches in my chin and six in my finger, I say ‘aren’t you going to x-ray the finger?’
He says, ‘No, it’s fine.’
Fast forward a few weeks: the finger is bent at the knuckle and won’t straighten. Now he decides that an x-ray might not be a bad idea.
After looking at the x-ray, he concludes that the tendon on top of the knuckle had gotten damaged and that I would need surgery to shorten it.
So I go in for surgery. When I’m sufficiently recovered, they tell me that the surgery was a failure because when they opened my finger, they discovered that the bone had gotten crushed in the accident and, since it had been allowed to mend that way, the only way to fix it would be to re-break the finger (a procedure that I have chosen to forego).”
Mad At Her Mother, Not Her Misdiagnosis
“I was told it was just anxiety and ‘all in your head’ for years. Ever since I was a little kid, actually. It took till I was about 10 or so to realize that everyone else didn’t feel the same way all the time like I did, and were just much better at hiding and coping with it than me.
It turned out to be multiple acute pancreatitis, gallstones, gallstone attacks, chronic pancreatitis, and pseudo cysts all over my pancreas over. Pretty much the course of my entire life.
I was never diagnosed until two stones got stuck in the common bile duct, heavily infecting my gallbladder with another acute pancreatic attack on top of it. It nearly killed me, and even then, a nurse in the ER was all ‘It’s probably just a stomach bug…it has been going around lately.’
The blood tests and CT scans said very differently. So did the week-long hospital stay, two surgeries to get the stones and gallbladder out. Then three more week-long stays in the hospital (home one week, hospital one week, back and forth) for acute pancreatitis. Plus a few ER trips as well that weren’t quite critical level for admission. Still, they were legit serious because by then we knew of the psudeocysts, and I was exhibiting symptoms that very well could and been one rupturing, which is potentially fatal). It confirmed that all those thousands of ‘stomach pain’ attacks I had randomly through my whole life, were actually cases of acute pancreatitis and/or gallstones passing/attacks. Medical emergencies that you ought to be hospitalized for days for. Well, the acute pancreatitis anyways, not so sure about the gallstones passing or gallbladder attacks. It certainly explained a lot about my life thus far.
I’m scheduled to have a consultation for surgery on my pancreas in April (the consultation for plan of attack, not the surgery). I’ve been officially diagnosed now for seven months now, with chronic pancreatitis and pseudo cysts on my pancreas that grow, shrink, go away, and pop up again somewhere else like a freaking lava lamp or something. I’m always in some degree of discomfort, if not pain, all the time as a result. I survive entirely on nutritional drinks with the occasional saltine cracker now (seems to be the safest in terms of not triggering food based pain spikes), and any amount of exertion (even simple things, like getting the cats their morning/evening wet food) leaves me panting level exhausted. I just have no energy, ever. It feels like I just don’t get any energy at all from what little food I’m able to eat. I’d never had much stamina or energy before it hit hospital-critical (in fact, I regularly got exhausted long before even literal grandmothers did on walks), but I’m just outright pathetic now.
I’m going to request biopsies on the fluid drained, and tissue while they’re in there. Cancer runs STUPID HEAVY in my genetic line, and an aunt of mine died of pancreatic cancer. She had all the life long undiagnosed symptoms, as well as the acute/chronic pancreatitis I’ve got now. She didn’t treat it very aggressively though, her insurance wouldn’t cover a thing. I’m not much in a better boat, being entirely uninsured, but hey, at times it feels better to be uninsured and just try to pay it yourself than pay thousands a year into an insurance policy that laughs at you and says ‘suck it up, buttercup’ when you need it most.
Honestly, I’m not even really mad at the misdiagnosis for so long. Abdominal pain can be anything from a burp/fart that doesn’t want to come out to cancer and everything in between. I do have anxiety issues, but many of them were created in part by the constant discomfort/pain I’ve always lived with – never knowing if any bite of food, smell, or activity would send me into the next eight-hour trip of vomiting agony in which my greatest comfort was, quite literally an internal mantra of sorts that stated: ‘even if it kills me, the pain will only be temporary, pain eventually ends.’
Who I am mad at, though, is my mother. The person who lived with me, saw the pain I went through, heard the hours of puking and the weeks on end of surviving on water and popsicles alone as that was all I could keep down. Who heard me insisting for years that something was wrong and to please, please, PLEASE take me to a doctor to find out what it was.
She didn’t. She wouldn’t. She kept insisting something was wrong with me mentally… and when she did take me to doctors, would only speak to them about ‘what is wrong with her head?’ while all I could speak about was ‘what is wrong with my stomach?’ Guess who got listened to and guess who lied to me, saying the doctors diagnosed me with bleeding stomach ulcers and acid reflux, then gave me anti-psychotic meds under the guise of ‘it’s for your stomach problems’ just to shut me up about it?
And so I believed it, for years that it was just acid reflux, chronic heartburn, and ulcers brought on by too much stress and being high-strung. I never thought to question it. I mean, we had technically been to the doctor, I was getting medicine now… and what kind of mother would lie about something like that?
It wasn’t until I was married, on the bathroom floor, delirious from infection and having insisted for the past 8 hours between every-10-min puking that ‘it’s just the acid reflux, it’s no big deal, it always goes away eventually, just like all the others’ and my scared husband picked me up and carried me to the ER (puking all the way) that we found out something was horribly wrong and had BEEN very wrong for a very long time.”