Thursday, December 30, 2010

DAY 87 – Diagnosis: Then What?

In our present culture, the hallmark of doctoring is making the diagnosis; naming the disease or condition. Just ask Dr. House. And, there is obvious value in recognizing the patient’s herniated disc, pancreatic cancer, or bacterial pneumonia.

While acknowledging the critical nature of diagnosis, one still has to wonder if the perception of its importance has overshadowed less glamorous and less considered responsibilities of doctoring.

We agree that knowing what the patient has, diagnosing, is very important. But, in comparison, how important is it to understand what caused the disease or condition in the first place?

Few patients that I have interviewed in the last 28 years have seriously considered the cause of their conditions. Furthermore, my patients report that most doctors they have seen have shown little interest in the factors that brought about their illnesses.

High blood pressure is a good example of a condition that is easy to diagnose, but whose causes can be difficult to determine. Treatment can be very different depending on the cause, be it stress, or lack of exercise, insufficient vitamin D, or magnesium deficiency, or food allergy. As with most conditions, it simply cannot be properly treated without knowing the cause.

A missed diagnosis can endanger a patient. Causation, not questioned, endangers a society.

Ask your doctor if understanding the cause of your illness is right for you.

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