2 posts tagged “dealing with new diagosis”

Pre-diagnosis limbo: “I knew something was wrong”

Posted March 16th, 2018 by

Before you were diagnosed with your condition, how long did you live in “limbo” with your symptoms and what was that like? Living with the unknown is a common part of the patient experience — PatientsLikeMe data shows that people with a wide range of health conditions live with their symptoms for several months or years before getting diagnosed.

Let’s take a look at the diagnosis “lag time” and some common first symptoms for various conditions, plus anecdotes and quotes about members’ earliest experiences with their condition (like this one from a member living with multiple sclerosis).

Diagnosis delay

The graph below shows how long it can take for people with various health conditions to receive their diagnosis. While it doesn’t represent every patient’s experience, it gives a sense of the hundreds — or in some cases, thousands — of days many people live with their symptom(s) before they get their diagnosis. (Click here for a larger view.)

* Median time between “first symptom” date and diagnosis date for members who’ve reported both on PatientsLikeMe, including (N=) 5,671 members with ALS; 12,870 with bipolar disorder; 40,846 with fibromyalgia; 430 with lung cancer; 7,918 with lupus (SLE); 14,929 with major depressive disorder; 30,262 with MS; 8,214 with Parkinson’s disease; 9,100 with PTSD; 6,979 with rheumatoid arthritis

Disruptive, elusive symptoms

“I knew something was wrong, just did not know what,” says one member with living with multiple sclerosis (MS) — a sentiment repeated in many forums.

What was your first symptom or hint that you had a health issue? When we ask members with certain conditions to recall their “first symptom noticed,” here’s a look at the three most commonly reported responses:

  • ALS – Slurred speech, foot drop, muscle twitching
  • Parkinson’s disease – Tremor in hands, tremor (unspecified), balance problems
  • MS – Fatigue, balance problems, numbness and tingling with pins and needles
  • Lupus (SLE) – Fatigue, muscle and joint pain, joint pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – Joint pain, muscle and joint pain, joint swelling
  • Fibromyalgia – Muscle and joint pain, fatigue, pain (unspecified)

Many health conditions have at least some similar or overlapping symptoms, which can confuse both doctors and patients. “It’s so weird because so many things feel like they may be something else,” one member noted in a forum discussion.

Members living with mental health conditions report a variety of symptoms. Looking at the graph above, many with mental health conditions appear to live with symptoms for three to five years or more before their diagnosis. Stigma surrounding mental health diagnosis and treatment could add to this delay and is a common topic discussed in the forums and in the medical community. Here’s just one comment from a member living with bipolar I disorder.

Years of “limbo”

Some conditions don’t have a standard diagnostic test or tool yet. Months or years without a proper diagnosis can be “hellish,” writes one member in the Parkinson’s disease forum, which launched a discussion that went something like this (can you relate?):

“My Doctors … and there were many …. misdiagnosed me for 10 lovely years! A hellish period…”

“It took 4 yrs in my case. The problem is no one seems to look at the person as a whole. The doctor’s are all specialists dividing the body into specialized ‘chunks.’ It’s hard to connect the dots this way…”

“It took over a year to be diagnosed. Then my family dr would not believe the diagnosis by the specialist and kept telling me that all the symptoms were all in my head and prescribing all the wrong stuff…”

“It took around 16 years to get diagnosed. Years of compiling a list of illnesses so long that even I started to think I was a hypochondriac…”

Many other communities have discussed their first symptoms and paths to diagnosis, including members with ALS, lupus, MS, and epilepsy.

How long was it before doctors correctly diagnosed your condition? Join PatientsLikeMe to connect with thousands of others who can relate.

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PatientsLikeMe Facing World AIDS Day 2009

Posted December 1st, 2009 by

Join AIDS.gov in Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day. December 1, 2009Every December 1st, we join hands with the HIV community at large in recognition of World AIDS Day.

The theme of World AIDS Day this year is leadership — a fitting theme for the 2500+ patients who are leading the way through openness in the PatientsLikeMe HIV community.  These leaders have chosen to share their health data and their personal stories of living with HIV, not only to manage their own disease, but also to help better the lives of others with HIV.

For 27 years, HIV/AIDS has been a global epidemic.  Today, our online community has a few thousand patients whose experiences of living with HIV run the gamut – from the newly diagnosed to those who were infected long ago.  Approximately  334 patients (or 12% of our community) indicate they were infected with HIV more than 20 years ago (such as BrightonBear, an early member who shared his story with us in this interview).  Similarly, 84 patients indicate on their profiles that they have been living with AIDS for more than 15 years.  All of these members have a lot to share – both through data and conversation – about how they continue to face the symptoms, treatments and side effects, and stigma of living HIV-positive.  There are also members who are new to HIV, with 162 patients in our HIV Community indicating they were diagnosed less than 2 years ago.  Our patients, both newly diagnosed and veterans in the HIV community, are true leaders – openly sharing their real-world health data and personal stories about living with HIV.  Here are some interesting tidbits the community is sharing:

  • How are patients like you evaluating the most popular treatments used for HIV? See what they say in our treatment reports about Atripla, Ritonavir, and Truvada.
  • Ever heard of Coconut Macaroon Cookies used to “treat” HIV? A handful of PatientsLikeMe members cite it as a great way for patients to curb their diarrhea, a common side effect of their cocktails.
  • That numbness in your hands and feet could be peripheral neuropathy, a common symptom in HIV. Patients are discussing treatments ranging from prescription drugs to lifestyle modifications to lessen the effects.
  • Some of the most discussed topics patients in our forum include specific treatments (i.e., Atripla and Truvada) and side effects, common symptoms (like fatigue) and other quality of life issues like depression, relationships, dealing with a new diagnosis, and coping.

For the past two years, PatientsLikeMe has worked in cooperation with AIDS.gov, a government media program committed to improving the lives of patients with HIV.  Check out their “Facing AIDS” photo campaign in honor of World AIDS Day.

Thank you to all of our members who continue to share and learn. It’s you who are leading the way.

PatientsLikeMe member mcotter