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Some people have diseases that baffle their doctors. Consider the following collection of complaints.

  • Someone who suffers from a vasovagal response disorder might have an exaggerated response to having blood drawn or even seeing a needle, breaking out into a sweat, feeling faint, or even passing out. However, someone who has orthostatic hypotension might have a similar reaction just to sitting up on the edge of the doctor's examination table to get blood drawn after lying down to have palpation of their abdomen.
  • Someone who has supraventricular tacchycardia (SVT's), a kind of racing heart that affects the top two chambers of the heart, can have sudden spells of racing heart, difficulty breathing, fatigue, chest pressure, and an urgent need to lie down. Someone who has irritable bowel syndrome can experience intense pressure in the abdomen, an urgent need to defecate, racing heart, difficulty breathing, sudden fatigue, and an urgent need to lie down.
  • Someone who has an unusual sensitivity to fructose may have to deal with bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain that is worse about 45 minutes after eating. Someone who has an intestinal infection may have to deal with bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain about 45 minutes after eating.
  • Someone suffering hypoglycemia may experience sweating, shakiness, racing pulse, weakness, and blurred vision. Someone suffering migraine may experience the same symptoms.
  • Anxiety can cause nearly all of the symptoms mentioned above.

Some diseases share multiple symptoms. Moreover, people who have one of the disease conditions listed above tend to have others from the same list. How can you tell what kind of condition you have?

Diagnosis is always something done by doctors, but here is how you can know what to ask about:

  • Supraventricular tachycardia often causes racing pulse and dizziness, sometimes causes shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, or chest pain, but seldom causes sweating or nausea. This condition usually requires interventional cardiology, although blood pressure management can help.
  • Migraine doesn't always cause headache. Sometimes there is no head pain at all, and the symptoms are changes in vision, changes in personality, or even symptoms of stroke. Migraine is notoriously difficult to manage, but avoiding triggers (certain foods, certain alcoholic beverages, certain kinds of stress) will help, and will medication. The herbs feverfew and petasites are nearly as effective as standard prescription medications in many cases. Taking a baby aspirin a day may also help.
  • Hypoglycemia is likely to cause intense hunger along with a variety of mental and physical symptoms as mentioned above. However, some people who are intent on dieting or keeping their blood sugar levels down don't experience hunger at all. It's never hard to determine whether you have hypoglycemia. Put a drop of your blood on a glucose monitor slide and put the slide in a glucometer. If the reading is 60 mg/dl (3.3 mmol) or less, you have hypoglycemia. If you are conscious, eat something!
  • Doctors often have the notion that vasovagal response disorder is a sign of emotional weakness or some kind of defect of character. It's not. It's a malfunction of parts of the brain that control heart rate and blood pressure. This kind of passing out can be triggered by prolonged sitting or standing, by urinating, by any kind of emotional stress, by sudden pain (like hitting your thumb with a hammer), exposure to high temperatures, dehydration, skipping meals, rubbing the eyes, massaging the neck, IUD insertion, exposure to fluctuating magnetic fields, or, in the classical example of vasovagal response disorder, seeing blood. Very simple medications such as beta-blockers may be all that is needed to keep the problem in control.
  • The late internationally renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks once described migraine as a "slow seizure." Many of the symptoms that occur in epileptic events, other than the "fit," can also occur in migraine. Many of the changes in abilities that occur in stroke can also occur in migraines, except when the migraine is over, normal neurological function returns. Only a neurologist can distinguish migraine and seizure disorders (epilepsy) and prescribe trreatment, but the tests are non-invasive and relatively fast.
  • Sometimes anxiety is a sign you need to make changes in your life. However, prescription medication can be helpful very quickly.

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