The one thing doctors tell you not to do is run yourself into a depression by self-diagnosing. But how could we not search up questionable symptoms we are having on the internet. I mean we already Google everything else in our lives, why not use the internet to calm our nerves or…make them worse.
The following Ask Redditors shared their responses to the question, “Doctors of Reddit, what’s the most incorrect patient self diagnosis you’ve seen?”
Find the original thread at the end of the article.
Not a doctor, but a psych first responder.
A patient self-diagnosed themselves as dead. Emergency medical technicians didn’t believe him. He was quite insistent though and wanted an ambulance ride because he thought a dead person ought to have one. The EMTs argued with him, stating that he was both standing and talking. He countered that he was in hell.
In fact, he was just pretty high with a bad drug combination. I had a fun hour with him while he came down.
I saw a patient last night who had been having episodes of “wind” for 6 months and had come in because of a particularly bad bout.
Massive heart attack with crescendo angina over the preceding year.
Not that uncommon a self-misdiagnosis but kind of takes you aback when you see it.
As a paramedic I responded to a dispatch for a “sick person.”
When we arrived this elderly gentleman was clearly having a stroke. He said I just ate some bad fish or something before taking a 3 hour nap. Luckily his wife finally decided to call 911.
I had a teenager and her mom come in worried she had some kind of serious circulation problem because her toes were blue. I looked at her feet and thought “that’s not really the right shade for loss of blood flow.”
I grabbed an alcohol swab and proceeded to wipe the blue color off the tops of her toes. I think it was from her new jeans.
We had a burn patient come in after a can of paint exploded.
We wiped the “burn” off and sent them home.
A man who rode his bike as sole method of transportation came in for chronic knee and leg pain. He had metastatic prostate cancer with bone lesions all over. He came in cause he thought he hurt his legs and left with hospice referral.
I have had an unbelievable amount of patients who think they have Stevens-Johnson Syndrome when they in fact have contact dermatitis from new lotion or laundry soap.
…I also advise not looking up that condition.
As a medic, I had a soldier run up to me and demand to see the physician assistant. When I asked why he said his girlfriend has “BV” and now he’s sure he does too.
I assured him that he most certainly did not have bacterial vaginosis.
An elderly man with dementia brought in for suspicion of Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis – a serious and life threatening reaction where your skin peels off in sheets.
Nope. It was a very large burn because they left Grandpa alone at the house and he spilled a teapot on himself and the family (and another hospital) were didn’t quite figure that part out.
A patient came in stating that he had blood in his stool FOR ALMOST A YEAR and was convinced that it was just because of hemorrhoids.
He only came in when he started to get abdominal pains. Turned out to be colorectal cancer.
Moral of the story is if you have blood in your stool (especially dark colored) don’t ignore it.
I had a 14-year-old female come in wanting to have her prostate checked because she read that frequent urination is a symptom of prostate cancer. That was an interesting conversation to have.
It turned out it was 40 degrees Celsius at that point in the middle of a hot Australian summer and she had increased her fluid intake.
I was rushed to the emergency room as a kid because I woke up and my face was blue. Obviously my parents thought I wasn’t breathing. I’m 8 or 9 years old and everyone’s sudden change in demeanor is making me a little scared, and I’m just getting bluer.
At emerge, they’re running all kinds of tests that aren’t showing anything wrong with me, until finally my dad realized that I put the brand new Toronto Maple Leafs pillow case I just got on my pillow.
A washcloth later, I was all better.
I would say after a couple years working in an emergency room before and during medical school that by far the most common egregious self misdiagnoses involve pregnancy.
Tons of sexually active patients coming in complaining of morning sickness and gaining weight, and just sure they have some sort of gastrointestinal issue or infectious disease. When it comes around to asking questions, “oh yeah, come to think about it I haven’t had my period in 3…4…5 months!”
That’s not to mention the people coming in fully in labor and delivering in the emergency department truly shocked that they were pregnant at all.
Now, I understand people can have irregular periods and there are many cases where the patient is reasonable in not guessing what’s going on, but there is a large group of patients who missed a lot of obvious hints.
I do have empathy for patients in situations where they really don’t want to be pregnant and so perhaps are subconsciously blocking it out of their mind.
But a medical mystery it is not…
When I was 15 my mother was absolutely convinced that I had infectious mononucleosis (mono). I was coming home from school and sleeping for several hours, eating dinner then going back to sleep.
So, she took me to the doctor who did an evaluation. It turns out that I didn’t have mono, I was just tired and being lazy.
This period of laziness was only a few weeks after the conclusion of varsity swim season so I was naturally exhausted from months of training.
I once thought I had a perforated colon because my poop was bright red. I spent an hour on the toilet in pain googling symptoms and then I remembered I got high the night before and crushed a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos.
I did my preceptor at a kidney and hypertension center and had a guy come in complaining of painful urination and thought he had a urinary track infection. I gave him a cup and told him to pee and set it in the window. The lab took the cup and immediately brought him back to a room. Which was strange because this place stayed packed and it was all a first come, first serve kind of thing. Well, this guy went back because there was blood in his urine. A lot of it.
Doctors got him in the room and stayed for maybe 15 minutes before we had him transferred to the emergency room. Apparently, he had a fractured penis and had no idea. The nurse above me said they lifted his gut and his entire groin was purple and black and his penis was on an odd angle. She said she would never forget it for the rest of her life.
The guy never did tell us what happened or anything. He acted just as surprised as everyone else.
I’m not a doctor but my roommate was convinced that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer because she used to wake up with a pain in her left arm every time she’d drink on a night out. She googled it and found a blog post from a woman who had lymphoma which was exacerbated by alcohol so she’d get pains in her lymph nodes after drinking – so obviously she thought this is what she had too.
She had breakdowns every time she’d drink, full on sobbing because she was absolutely convinced she had cancer every time she’d have a twinge in her arm.
Turned out that whenever she was absolutely smashed she’d literally fall into bed and sleep awkwardly on her arm for 8 hours.
I was in my work placement years when this happened.
A man in his early 20s has committed a crime and claimed that he won’t be going to jail because he self-diagnosed himself with personality disorder from the google search. Police officers brought him in for my mentor to diagnose him. My mentors exact words were: ‘You do not suffer from personality disorder. You’re just a jerk.’
I am waiting for the day I could use the same line as my now retired mentor.
Paediatrician here. A lot of parents come in thinking their child has cancer because they “won’t eat anything.”
Actually, they just don’t like vegetables and are eating themselves to obesity with the crap you substitute it with.
Physician assistant that works in the emergency department here.
I had a woman, around 45-years-old, come in with her mother for a complaint of a spider bite on her back. It was actually an abscess. No big deal, that’s pretty common. People think abscesses are spired bites all the time. I incised and drained it and sent her home on antibiotics (pretty standard procedure).
I told her to come back in two days for a re-check. When she came back it was looking better and her and her mother thought it was something serious because it still wasn’t all the way gone yet, but it was healing well and there wasn’t much to do. They came back again, 2 days later and told me it was definitely gangrene. I tried to reassure them, but they both kept arguing with me that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
It was obviously a healing abscess and was looking a lot better. It looked nothing like gangrene (which they had googled). I had to get two of my colleagues to come in the room to reassure them but they still didn’t believe us. I think they ended up going to another hospital.
A mother brought in her third child. The kid was listless, pale and poor muscle tone.
The mother claims the kid has multiple sclerosis. So I was doing my checks asking about food and home environment. She says, ‘oh, he is lactose intolerant so we only us almond milk…run a panel’.
Not only is the poor little 2-year-old NOT lactose intolerant, his mother has been starving his poor brain of nutrients by feeding him only vegetables but no protein or protein based items like legumes. The kid is developmental delayed because she saw an internet article on it.
I ended up calling Child Protective Services on her and having all of her three children removed. She even had a daughter with bulimia. It was horrifying. It still pisses me off when I think it about till this day.
I had a patient tell me they went to urgent care and the nurse diagnosed pink eye.
The patient didn’t feel right about that and went to the eye doctor. The eye doctor told her she had an ulcer on her eye and if it went untreated she would lose eye sight and possibly the eye.
Endocrinologist here. I have a 54-year-old patient who recently entered the menopause. To alleviate the symptoms, she’s doing a hormone replacement therapy with estrogen skin patches to reduce any chances of a future stroke.
The using recommendation is quite simple: Just paste one per day into your body.
A few weeks later the patient called me claiming that the treatment was inefficient and she wanted to quit it. I didn’t understand and then she explained to me, saying that she couldn’t keep it going because she had no place in the body to stick them anymore and this was leaving her embarrassed in front of people. She was sticking them without removing the old ones. After I explained the obvious to her, I laughed so loudly that I woke up my husband.
ER nurse here. I had a girl last week come in (about 20 weeks pregnant) for abdominal pain. After running basic labs and doing an ultrasound, it was clear that everything was fine; probably a strained muscle.
Me: OK, so it looks like you probably pulled a muscle. All of our tests look great!
Her: Don’t laugh at me, but I think I figured out what’s causing this.
She proceeds to pull out her ultrasound picture and says, “Don’t make fun of me, but I believe in supernatural stuff, and you can clearly see here that there’s a demon-face in my ultrasound. That’s what’s causing the pain.”
I bit my lips to keep from laughing, and then laughed a lot after she had left.
(American) football player came in after practice with mild difficulty breathing and mild chest pain x 2 days – he thought it was bronchitis. Mom shows up into the exam room halfway in and pretends like she has 4 years of medical school from WebMD University and starts interrupting my interview with her adult son. She began to answer the questions for him and was obviously trying to dominate the interaction.
I heard some concerning chest sounds and I recommended doing a chest X-ray to rule out serious stuff. Mom refuses and insists I write him a script for antibiotics and send him home because she’s not paying any more money for this ED visit. I made them sign waivers. Kid went home and died in his sleep that night – ARDS from getting hit in the chest at the game that previous Saturday.
Patient came in with a headache and said she Googled it and thought it was an aneurysm or subarachnoid hemorrhage (20 something year old by the way). Asked her how bad it hurt and she’s like, “oh it’s really not that bad. I just feel some tension in my neck muscles and head.” She had a tension headache which is a real thing. But, she had to be convinced she didn’t have something worse because of her WebMD search.
Patient came in with a really bad cough. He said he had the flu and would be fine, but his wife made him come in to the ED. Find out he had a 150 pack-year smoking history, do an X-Ray and see a lung mass. Well he gets admitted, we do a mass and lymph node biopsy, and yup, stage 4 small cell lung cancer.