Some medical conditions and diseases have finite signs and symptoms making the diagnosis obvious. Other diagnoses are more difficult to conclude because of vague or obscure symptoms. Many diagnoses have similar or crossover symptoms making it difficult to make a definitive diagnosis.
There are innumerable medical conditions and diseases, some of which are listed below:
- Addison's disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn's disease
- Macular degeneration
- Cerebral palsy
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Primary care physician (PCP): This physician is often board certified in internal medicine or family practice and is the coordinator of the medical care and treatment plan for the patient. A PCP often orders the initial set of medical test to begin the diagnostic process.
- Medical and surgical specialists: Depending upon the symptoms with which the patient presents, the PCP often refers them to an appropriate specialist for further diagnosis and care.
The Diagnostic Tests
- Physical examination: A complete physical examination or symptom-specific evaluation by the PCP will begin the diagnostic process.
- Laboratory tests: These tests usually include a baseline complete blood count (CBC), metabolic panel and urinalysis as well as any tests specific to the patient's presenting symptoms. Lab testing includes those done on any bodily fluids and tissue.
- Radiology tests: Basic screening x-rays often include a chest x-ray or abdominal films. The radiology testing ordered depends upon the patient's symptoms. Testing can include x-ray radiography, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, angiography, computed tomography (CT scan), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Medication: There are medications for most medical conditions ranging from insulin to treat diabetes and anti-arrhythmic drugs to treat cardiac arrhythmias to a chemotherapy protocol to treat cancer. A physician is responsible to order the appropriate medication while monitoring the drug interactions and side effects.
- Chemotherapy: This specialized treatment regime is ordered and regulated by a board certified oncologist.
- Surgery: There are general surgeons who treat a variety of patients and cover a wide range of needs. Some surgeons specialize in one body system or area of expertise such as orthopedic, ophthalmic or colorectal surgery.
- Interventional procedures: This can include outpatient colonoscopy, spinal nerve block, laser skin resurfacing or a steroid injection into a painful joint. The procedures are limitless.
Seeking medical attention for a change in the body's basic function is important to overall health and well-being. A change in bowel habits, unusual bleeding, pain, unexplained weight loss, a lump or skin changes are a few of the symptoms that warrant medical attention. It is important to be proactive at the first sign of any medical change.