The Risk of Attribution and Comorbidities

Jack Barton | 2014-08-18 04:49:39

Sometimes we all feel tired, sometimes we feel confused, sometimes we’re stiff, sometimes we’re sore, sometimes we’re sad, sometimes we’re happy and sometimes we’re confused as to where bloggers are going with their ramblings… The reasons for all of these feelings can be numerous and multifaceted. Sometimes we can experience these feelings as a result of our actions. Sometimes we can experience these feelings as a result of something a lot more serious.

After a diagnosis of a long term condition an individual may experience symptoms associated with that condition. For example an individual that is diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may experience excessive fatigue or breathlessness during activity. They may be used to these feelings and have been informed by their doctor that they are to be expected. However what about if they experience acute chest pain, tightness and shooting pains down one arm like never before and all at the same time? What is the cause?

Unfortunately many long term conditions present symptoms which persist during everyday life, or occur as a result of certain actions. In some conditions individuals may experience periods of exacerbated symptoms and periods of no symptoms at all. Due to the presence of, in some cases, numerous symptoms, identifying a new symptom or a change in symptomology can be difficult. Often individuals will attribute symptoms to their condition even if they are different to what they usually experience.

The assumption that a change in symptomology is due to a pre-diagnosed long term condition can be extremely dangerous, because it may result in other conditions going undiagnosed. If a condition isn’t diagnosed it can’t be treated. If a condition isn’t treated and managed then it poses significantly greater risk to one’s health. That chest pain, tightness and shooting pain down one arm mentioned earlier could well be a heart attack… the attribution of those symptoms to a pre-diagnosed condition could be the difference between the event being identified and treated, or not. Therefore it is important for all individuals to keep a close eye on any symptoms that they experience, watching for changes in severity, frequency or timings, along with the development of any new symptoms. Through keeping a record of any symptoms an individual can easily identify any changes that may be worth bringing up with their doctor. Informing a doctor of changes in symptoms may give them the information they need to improve your health, wellbeing and quality of life, but if they don’t know, how can they intervene?

I guess what I’m saying is be wary, although in most cases symptoms may well be minor and attributable to a previously diagnosed condition, the one time you make this assumption may well be the one time you wish you hadn’t. Keep track, pay attention and keep your GP informed to ensure your optimal health and wellbeing.

Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)