"Think happy thoughts" doesn't work for every condition

"That's odd," Cheryl thought. "I don't usually get headaches." But before long, she had unexplained headaches every day. Then she began having trouble hearing on the phone, a big inconvenience, given the frequent phone calls that went with her job as a management consultant. She also started feeling dizzy, as if she or her surroundings were spinning.

Should you consider alternative medicine?

Rhonda, age 39, woke up one morning and could barely breathe. It took great effort to get out of bed. She said, “I was struggling to breathe. I assumed it was something like asthma -- that I had developed overnight -- something very strange.” She was in great shape -- she took hours of modern dance classes every week -- and she had never had problems breathing before.

She reports, “I went to see a new doctor, because mine had moved away. He took x-rays and he told me it was gas.”

Rhonda didn’t think so.

Be skeptical if told, 'It's all in your head.'

Stacy squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. She looked at her watch. The hour-long class had another seven minutes to go. Could she make it? She tried to distract herself by focusing fiercely on the professor’s words, and writing down as much as she could of what he was saying. Then she started surreptitiously gathering her belongings together, anticipating the end of the class. Finally, finally, the bell rang and she grabbed her bag and almost jogged to the restroom.

It pays to be skeptical when diagnosis doesn't seem right

Debbie was a stay-at-home mom with girls aged 10 and 11 when she found a painful lump in her breast and went to see her doctor. She was sent to have a mammogram at the local hospital. "It's just an infection in a milk duct," her doctor told her. He prescribed an antibiotic and told her to take an over-the-counter painkiller.

If your concerns are being ignored, run, don't walk, to another doctor

Sometimes healthcare hurts more than it helps. Consider the case of Hannah, a baby born with several serious medical issues.

The problem that put Hannah in intensive care on and off for most of the first three months of her life was that she couldn't seem to keep anything down. Because her mother, Tiffany, did not produce enough breastmilk to meet the baby's needs, Hannah was fed a combination of formula and breast milk. She vomited up almost everything after every feeding.

Are you being treated for the wrong condition?

The doctor told me that I had a middle ear infection. That seemed like a reasonable conclusion, because I had fluid in my middle ear. When I didn't get better after months of treatments, he decided to slice my eardrum open and suction out the fluid. As he was tidying up afterwards, he told me that all the fluid was gone and no more would appear.

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