4 Common Misdiagnoses for Men

Although we like to trust our doctors, misdiagnoses can happen. It's up to us to stay on top of our health and get a second opinion if warranted. Consider some of the following common misdiagnoses for men, and take action if you suspect a misdiagnosis of your condition. 

Misdiagnosis 1: Allergies

What You May Really Have: Vasomotor Rhinitis

Doctors usually blame congestion, watery eyes, and bouts of sneezing on allergies, but unless you recently moved or changed jobs, it's rare to develop allergies later in life. Instead, your symptoms may be the result of vasomotor rhinitis.

This is a condition that is triggered by non-allergen irritants, such as perfume, smog, and cigarette smoke that inflame your nasal mucous membranes.

What to Know: The allergy medicines you're prescribed won't provide relief.

Make a Plan: Schedule a skin-prick test to identify any allergies. If it comes out negative for allergies, go over potential triggers with your doctor.

Misdiagnosis 2:  Alcohol or Substance abuse

What You May Really Have: Depression

Like many men, you may think it is not "manly" to express feeling and emotions, and instead you try to suppress them. In order to deny or ignore your feelings  (especially ones associated with depression), you may turn to abusing alcohol or other substances to cope.

Male depression is a serious medical condition, but many men try to ignore it or refuse treatment. Male symptoms include: violent or abusive behavior, inappropriate rage, escapist behavior, reckless behavior, alcohol or substance abuse, sexual liaisons, and more frequent thoughts of suicide. Having these kinds of symptoms make it difficult to link them to depression, and making diagnosis and treatment harder.

What to Know: Many effective treatments are available for depression, so don't try to tough out male depression on your own. The consequences may be devastating.

Make a Plan: Call your doctor for an appointment to discuss your symptoms, especially your emotions and feelings. Being open and honest about what you are experiencing can help you get properly diagnosed and treated.

Misdiagnosis 3: Gynecomastia

What You May Really Have: Breast Cancer

Doctors often diagnose lumps around men's breasts as gynecomastia, a harmless over-development of breast tissue usually caused by an excess of the female hormone estrogen, or a lack of the male hormone testosterone.

The disease does not really care what sex you are. Both the emphasis on breast cancer as a female disease and men's typical unwillingness to talk about health issues have conspired to shroud male breast cancer in secrecy.

What to Know: Breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women, but the numbers among men are on the rise. Because male breast cancer is so rare, delayed diagnosis often results in the disease proving more deadly for men.

Make a Plan: If you have detected a lump around your nipples or breasts, call you doctor for an evaluation and ask your doctor about being tested for breast cancer. 

Misdiagnosis 4: Inguinal Hernia

What You May Really Have: Groin Pain

With an inguinal hernia, you will also typically have groin pain. If you get a misdiagnosis, you may end up with an order for surgery when in fact, there is no inguinal hernia to perform an operation on.

What to Know: The symptoms of an inguinal hernia include sharp pain or discomfort in the groin or lower abdomen, especially when patients exert themselves -- for example, by lifting, running or even coughing.

Make a Plan: To prevent misdiagnosis of groin pain, some medical experts suggest the patient to undertake an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan. This diagnostic procedure can reveal a tear in the tissue or tendon. This will assist in coming up with the proper diagnosis of the condition. Talk to your doctor.

Staying on top of these common misdiagnoses can help you get the right treatment that you need, prevent you from unnecessarily going under the knife, and even save your life. Always consider getting a second opinion.


Mayo Clinic Staff. "Inguinal Hernia." MayoClinic.com. Web. Apr. 2, 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/inguinal-hernia/DS00364

Mayo Clinic Staff. "Male Depression: Understanding the Issues." MayoClinic.com. Web. 2 Apr. 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-depression/mc0004

Worland, Daraugh. "Male Breast Cancer Often Misdiagnosed." FoxNews.com. 30 Oct. 2005. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,173965,00.html. Web. 2 Apr. 2010.