Nothing is worse than having a persistent and discreet pain that doesn’t show up on an x-ray, MRI, or CT. After struggling with some mysterious condition for months, and often years, the person who was reluctant to go to the doctor in the first place finally does so only for the doctor to say there is nothing wrong with her.

It is not that you want there to be something wrong with you. That would be a different problem, namely, Munchausen’s syndrome. By the way, that also doesn’t show up on scans. So it takes a lot of negative scans to validate the diagnosis.

People who suffer from fibromyalgia. have often suffered the humiliation of people accusing them of faking the illness. Diagnosis and treatment are much better these days. But there are still plenty of illnesses that can’t be easily caught in a health screening. Here are three:


Depression does not show up in blood work. There is no routine test that will reveal it. So even if you show up every year for your annual health screening, suicide ideation will never be detected.

It is possible to detect the root cause of some mental illness when that cause is a visible tumor. An operable tumor is much preferable to mental disorders that have no visible cause.

Getting past such issues are much easier when the problem can be excised with surgery. Getting past social isolation, substance dependency, and other such challenges can be much harder without the right kind of screening and treatment.

When you have these feelings, they could be symptoms of treatable mental issues. The good news is that screening for such issues are available from the right specialists. There is help just around the corner.


You should be a little concerned with a doctor who only cares about scans and doesn’t spend enough time talking to her patients. It is the conversation about symptoms, and sometimes about life in general, that clues the doctor in on what type of scan is needed.

Allergies fall into the category of illness that will almost never show up on general screening. But with the right insight, a doctor can make a more accurate diagnosis that surfaces that to which you might be allergic.

The concerning drop in health screenings across the UK comes down to many factors. One factor just might be past failure to get a useful diagnosis. You can increase your chances of getting that useful diagnosis by insisting on doing a lot of talking. Tell your doctor your symptoms and don’t let them reduce you to numbers on a page.


Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most frustrating disorders because, despite the millions of people who suffer from it daily, the Mayo Clinic confirms that there is no test to definitively diagnose IBS. It is a diagnosis of exclusion. That means they test for everything that fits your symptoms. Excluding those things, a determination of IBS is made. You can think of it as the Sherlock Holmes method: Eliminate the impossible. Whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

On closer inspection, that is not a great philosophy for diagnosing patients. You can never eliminate everything as impossible. There are always possibilities. IBS is often mistaken for what turns out to be gluten allergies or lactose intolerance. There is often so much pain that it is hard for the sufferer to describe it accurately.

IBS can lead to colonic inertia which is a storage of normal bowel functions. However, by the time it gets to that stage, the diagnosis matters much less than the treatment. It can lead to serious and drastic treatments such as an ileostomy. That is truly major surgery for a diagnosis of exclusion.

All of these health issues have three things in common: None of them shows up with a traditional health screening. All of them can lead to a great deal of suffering. And they all can be somewhat mitigated by talking to your health professional and giving them more to work with than what shows up on the scans.