Associated Condition Misdiagnosis


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Although it's not something you hope for, it is always possible you have two diseases rather than one. For any disease, there are usually other diseases that are related to it or associated with it. Obviously, the underlying conditions cause the disease and complications are caused by the disease, and so both are clearly related to the original disease. However, there are often associated or related conditions that neither cause nor are caused by the original condition.

What are associated conditions? Associated conditions are statistically related, but do not have a clear cause or effect relationship. Having a disease may make it more likely that you will have a related disease. The reason for an association with a second disease can vary greatly. A second condition may be associated or related with the first condition because:

  • having the first increases the risk of getting the second (i.e. the first disease is a risk factor for the second).
  • having the first indicates you are in the risk group for other similar conditions (e.g. having one STD may indicate your sexual behavior puts you at risk for other STDs).
  • both may be caused by the same underlying condition (i.e. a third underlying condition): for example, diabetes and hypertension may be related due to underlying metabolic syndrome.
  • the second condition causes the original condition (i.e. it is an underlying condition).
  • the second condition is caused by the first disease (i.e. it is a direct symptom or complication).

Misdiagnosis of associated conditions: Vigilance in the correct diagnosis of any additional related conditions is important. Failure to diagnose a related condition is a partial misdiagnosis. There may be related conditions at diagnosis, and they may also be an increased risk of getting related conditions in the future. For this reason it is important that you and your doctor are aware of the related conditions and their symptoms.

Example: Heart disease: A very common example is that many risk factors for heart disease occur together. Hence, if you have hypertension, you may also have the related conditions of high cholesterol, diabetes, and overweight. This example may be related to lifestyle or you have may an underlying condition such as metabolic syndrome.

Example: Autoimmune diseases: Another example is that autoimmune diseases tend to occur together. Some examples of autoimmune diseases include lupus, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and about a 100 other conditions. This grouping is probably because getting one autoimmune disease indicates a problem with your immune system, making it somewhat more likely you will subsequently get a second autoimmune disease.

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