“A 2016 study found that women have a 50 percent higher chance of receiving an incorrect initial diagnosis after a heart attack; strokes, too, are 30 percent more likely to be overlooked in women. Autoimmune diseases, which are three times more common in women, take roughly five years to be correctly diagnosed, and female-specific conditions like endometriosis often take a decade of doctor visits before they’re accurately identified. Women, in other words, are more likely to be misdiagnosed in pretty much any medical situation” (Source).
Yeah, let that sink in. Now, I’m sure either you or a women you know can attest to being misdiagnosed. Why is that? From my research, women aren’t often represented in medical trials. On top of that, there is often bias that can play a part in a women’s diagnoses. “The idea that a woman’s medically inexplicable complaints “were all in her head,” still persists. Female patients are frequently told they’re under stress, or have anxiety, or suffer from depression, or the complaints are a result of hormonal cycles” (Source).
I’ve had first hand experience of the struggles women face while trying to receive a diagnoses. I’ve visited numerous doctors. I’ve seen nurse practitioners, specialists, and a few general practitioners. I’ve been told my symptoms were caused by stress, that I was just sensitive, I’ve been incorrectly diagnosed with an STD and acid reflux. I’ve been told “it’s just because you’re in college, that’s a hard time for everyone” and “just try taking a hot bath once a week”. I started to believe my symptoms were all in my head. Maybe I was just stressed and sensitive? Then my symptoms landed me in the emergency room. That night, I was there for 8 hours and received the worst care I’ve experienced. However, one good thing did come from it, they referred me to the doctor that finally (properly) diagnosed me. It took years but I finally learned that I had an autoimmune disease.
As a women, you need to advocate for yourself and your health. When you know it’s more than stress and hot bath won’t cure it, fight to be tested. Know that you’re worth it and that you deserve proper medical treatment. It can be especially hard to stand up to someone who has had years of training and education but I wish I had. I wouldn’t have had to struggle caring for my symptoms on my own for years if I had demanded a proper diagnoses. Take care of yourself by standing up for yourself.