Differential Etiology of Symptoms

When you happen to have been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, there are multiple symptoms that you can exhibit at any given time. Trying to determine the correct etiology of any particular symptom is often most challenging.

Earlier today, I experienced an episode of severe shortness of breath. I found myself wondering if my dyspnea reflected my subglottic stenosis worsening.

Alternatively, I questioned if my trouble breathing could be secondary to paradoxical vocal fold motion. Furthermore, I wondered if my breathing difficulties could be secondary to iron-deficiency anemia.

More than once, I’ve felt like an air traffic controller at O’Hare International, in trying to determine which diagnosis has produced a particular symptom. It is staggeringly complex. Good thing that I have always been interested in the study of medicine, plus that I have earned an advanced degree in the medical field, right?

Of course, it’s critically important to determine the correct etiology of a symptom; pursuing the most effective treatment follows from knowing what exactly is producing that symptom.

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