Common Medical Diagnostic Errors

At the first sign of illness, most people are quick to visit their doctor to be diagnosed and treated. Unfortunately, despite the fact that doctors usually provide an accurate diagnosis, medical diagnostic errors occur more frequently than one would think.

In fact, diagnostic errors affect 12 million people – that’s 1 in 20 – in the U.S. every year. These errors can be potentially fatal, which is why it is not only important to listen to your gut instinct, but get a second opinion as well.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Kaplan and Lukowski reveal the common medical diagnostic errors that you should be aware of:

Illnesses That Are Commonly Misdiagnosed

Heart Attacks

When heart attacks are misdiagnosed, it is often because the symptoms of the attack were misidentified. For example, a younger person may have crushing chest pain, while an older person may think that they are simply experiencing indigestion. In rare cases, some people will not exhibit any symptoms at all.

Common Medical Diagnostic ErrorsFurthermore, it can be more difficult for doctors to diagnose heart attacks in women. According to a study in 2014, women often do not experience the classic symptoms of heart attacks, making them more difficult to diagnose.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic arthritis-like disorder that is characterized by widespread pain. Unfortunately, there are no diagnostic tests available for fibromyalgia, making it difficult to diagnose.

Fibromyalgia is usually characterized by widespread pain in combination with fatigue, anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. Physicians often misdiagnose fibromyalgia as lupus, rheumatoid arthritics, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Celiac Disease

Celiac is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s ability to digest gluten. Celiac disease has a variety of different symptoms that are unique to each individual, which has caused many doctors to misdiagnose their patients with celiac disease. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, and constipation, but many other people can experience headaches, joint pain, and depression.

Most commonly, doctors confuse celiac disease with IBS. At times, patients have no outward symptoms, making celiac disease difficult to diagnose.


Lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease, is listed as AARP’s most commonly misdiagnosed disease. Symptoms of lupus include chronic fatigue; kidney, heart and lung damage; rash, and joint pain. Doctors often misdiagnosis lupus as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, which is most often caused by a tick bite, can cause shortness of breath, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and chest or rib soreness. Without the evidence of a tick bite, (the tell-all “bull’s rash”), Lyme disease can go undiagnosed. In many cases, doctors misdiagnose Lyme disease as mononucleosis, fibromyalgia, meningitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Thyroid Conditions

An imbalance in hormones can produce too much or too little of the thyroid hormone. This imbalance can cause symptoms like weakness, fatigue, weight change, and muscle pain. Doctors may confuse a thyroid problem with another ailment such as depression.

Contact Kaplan & Lukowski, LLP for Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical diagnostic errors can be serious, causing you or a loved one potential harm. If you feel that you or a loved one have been misdiagnosed, seek legal advice immediately. Medical malpractice cases are very complex and laws can vary from state to state, so it is important to seek a professional for counsel.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Kaplan and Lukowski, LLP, in Atlanta will determine whether an injury or illness was caused by malpractice. All potential cases are reviewed by Ronald I. Kaplan, M.D., who in addition to being a practicing attorney, was a surgeon for over 20 years.

To schedule your free consultation with our Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers, call (404) 845-0012, or fill out our online contact form.