Thanks to Melodie Weller, PhD (@MeloWeller) for tweeting the link to this very interesting article. Entitled 'The Rheumatologist as Detective' and published in The Rheumatologist, it provides a small look into the world of doctors who are just as baffled by some medical problems as their patients. Save this article for when you have time for a fairly lengthy read; but do read it by all means:
In rheumatology, the diagnosis may be apparent as soon as I shake a patient’s hand or scan the face or extremities for clues. Some physical signs are pathognomonic, that is, specific for only one disease. Osteoarthritis spares the knuckles, but gradually enlarges the middle and distal joints of the fingers. A heliotrope rash—a faint purplish swelling around the eye—is specific for the immunologic muscle disease, dermatomyositis. The thickened skin of scleroderma, the facial rash of lupus, the destructive saddle nose deformity of granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), are rare but specific signs of their respective diseases.
If at first the diagnosis eludes me, a careful review of the history and a good physical exam with a dash of focused lab usually makes the obscure apparent.
But when I still don’t know the diagnosis at my follow-up visit, sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong for months, even years. Sure, doctors take pride in their successes, but the mystery cases, the patients who remain unwell and undiagnosed even after a second opinion, are not uncommon. Or, as Ron Anderson, MD, a prominent Boston rheumatologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, once confided to a startled group of medical students and residents during a case presentation, “That disease saw me long before I saw it.” Continue reading here.