150 failed doctor diagnoses causes man to use Google to find his rare throat syndrome

Father forced to Google his symptoms after 150 GP appointments failed to correctly diagnose his rare throat syndrome

Carl Holt, 34, developed a constant sore throat after returning from holiday
He also lost more than four stone in weight and was permanently fatigued
Over a period of two years he attended 150 GP and hospital appointments
None of the doctors was able to provide a clear diagnosis
Googled his symptoms and discovered condition called Eagle syndrome
It is characterised by hardening of a ligament at the back of the throat or by elongation of a bone at the base of the skull which causes discomfort
Mr Holt paid for private tests which showed he had the syndrome

PUBLISHED: 14:21, 24 June 2013 | UPDATED: 15:53, 24 June 2013

A father-of-one was forced to Google his symptoms after 150 visits to doctors failed to provide him with a diagnosis.
Carl Holt, 34, was subjected to two years of GP and hospital appointments after developing constant throat pain following a family holiday in July 2010.

The sales manager lost four-and-a-half stone and went from playing football twice a week to being tired all of the time.

Despite hospital appointments and visits to his doctor up to six times a month, medics could not work out what was wrong with him.

Mr Holt feared he had cancer but after researching his symptoms on the internet and watching videos on YouTube, he found out about a rare condition called Eagle syndrome.

Eagle syndrome occurs when a ligament at the back of the throat become calcified or hardened, or when a bone at the base of the skull becomes elongated.

Symptoms include throat and ear pain.

Sufferers often have the feeling something is stuck in their throat and have difficulty swallowing.

Remarkably, despite telling doctors about the disease, Mr Holt was not tested for it at three separate GP practices or at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

Therefore, Mr Holt decided to pay for private care at Salford Hospital in Greater Manchester in October last year and was finally diagnosed with the rare medical condition.

He has now criticised the NHS for failing to spot the condition despite the staggering number of GP and hospital appointments.

Mr Holt, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent, said: ‘People started questioning my mental health because I was always at the doctors, yet they could never find out what was wrong with me.

‘Through research, I found out about a condition called Eagle syndrome, which seemed to tick all the symptoms I was suffering.

‘I saw videos about it on YouTube and Googled it but even though I told my doctors about it, no-one would believe me or test me for it.

‘It was so frustrating. The pain and the symptoms wouldn’t go away but doctors just weren’t interested and would just tell me to take painkillers.

‘I even paid to go and get second opinions privately but every time I did it was the same doctors I had seen on the NHS.

‘Because I had a sore throat for so long I thought I had throat cancer.

‘At the time I was on the cusp of becoming a father and I worried I would never get to see my daughter.

‘I felt anxious and depressed and contemplated suicide. When I finally got the diagnosis, I felt a lot of relief.’

He added: ‘I saw a consultant in Manchester and within minutes of looking at my CT scan he confirmed it was Eagle syndrome.

‘I was appalled – it just shows that if all the other doctors listened to me instead of fobbing me off then I would have been diagnosed two years earlier.’

Mr Holt, who spent £10,000 trying to get a diagnosis, is now being treated as an NHS patient at Salford Royal Hospital.

He had anti-inflammatory injections in March this year and has a follow up appointment later this year to see if he needs surgery.

Mr Holt, who lives with his wife Toni, 30, and daughter Ruby, two, said: ‘It was some sort of virus that set it all off. I felt tired all the time. I lost four-and-a-half stone in weight.


Eagle syndrome is a collection of symptoms that include recurrent throat and ear pain, the feeling that there is something stuck at the back of the throat, difficulty swallowing and facial pain.

The symptoms are caused by the elongation of the temporal bone, at the base of the skull, or by the calcification of the stylohyoid ligament at the back of the throat.

The cause of the condition is poorly understood.

It is diagnosed using X-Rays or scans and treatments can include injections and surgery.

‘I went from 18-stone, physically fit, playing football twice a week and leading a very active life, to simply going to work, then coming home and going to sleep.

‘I had injections that went straight into the styroid ligaments. It was the first time in over two years that I didn’t have a pain in my throat.

‘I still don’t feel 100 per cent, I would say I’m at 80 per cent now.

‘I’ve spent £10,000 over the two and a half years but at least I have answers now.’

His wife added: ‘I feel a bit guilty because I was one of the people thinking there was nothing wrong with him.

‘But Carl was right all along.

‘He went from being the life and soul of the party to a shadow of himself.’

A spokesman for University Hospital of North Staffordshire said: ‘We cannot comment on individual patient cases as the trust is bound by rules of patient confidentiality.’

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