Before I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a couple of years ago, doctors treated me for a number of different illnesses that they thought might be causing my symptoms, including polycystic ovaries, depression and anxiety.
None of the treatments and medications they prescribed worked. When I would invariably end up in the doctor’s office again, doctors would do blood work, look at the results and then simply tell me nothing was wrong.
As someone who had lived in my own body for over two decades, however, I knew that something wasn’t right and that the way I was feeling wasn’t my baseline normal. When I finally did get a doctor who believed me, who persisted and eventually diagnosed me with hypothyroidism, the diagnosis (and subsequent treatment) came as a huge relief.
For 23-year-old Nadia Tasher, however, the journey to getting a proper diagnosis took a full four-and-a-half years — a time period in which doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed her with anxiety due to her frequent visits to the doctor’s office because she once went over 80 times in a single year.
The true culprit of her ongoing symptoms, though, was actually lupus, a condition that Tasher had never even heard of before she was finally diagnosed with it.
Her doctors’ confusion was understandable. In their shoes, suspecting hypochondria made sense due to the changing nature of Tasher’s symptoms and her frequent visits. That’s why it’s worth becoming familiar with the symptoms of lupus, a disease that affects approximately 1.5 million people in the United States alone.
The following chart, tweeted by Dr. Ahmed Kazmi, shows a few symptoms of lupus that people should look out for:
— Doctor Ahmed (@DrAhmedKazmi) September 14, 2017
Lupus commonly affects women of childbearing age, with around 90 percent of its sufferers being female. It comes with a wide range of symptoms, which is why it can be difficult to pin down in a diagnosis.
“Lupus can present in different ways; it can affect the joints, kidneys, brain, skin, and lungs, and can also mimic many different issues,” Dr. Eugene Shapiro, deputy director of the Investigative Medicine Program at Yale University, told CNN.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common lupus symptoms include:
- Ongoing fatigue or fever
- Pain, swelling or stiffness in joints
- Butterfly-shaped rash on the face
- Skin lesions that display photosensitivity (or sensitivity to the sun)
- Raynaud’s phenomenon (having one’s fingers or toes turn white or blue when facing cold weather or stress)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Confusion or memory loss
On her Instagram page, Tasher — who now blogs about living with lupus — has shared a few of her symptoms, including ulcers and pain in her extremities:
Tasher’s story is a good reminder that whether a diagnosis eventually turns up lupus or hypothyroidism or another illness, it’s worth fighting for your health.
“They [doctors] insisted I was suffering from anxiety, and said all my symptoms were as a result of stress and panic attacks,” Tasher told Cosmopolitan in April. “I’d go in and say to them ‘I’m really worried because…’, but that word ‘worried’ would instantly lead them to the conclusion I was suffering from anxiety, so their only solution was to tell me to go home and rest.”
If you continually experience the same health issues with no resolution, it’s worth visiting several different physicians and advocating for your own health.
After all, no one else lives in your body, so no one else knows exactly what you’re feeling or what you’re going through. Make sure you’re heard.