The internet is a good place to find answers. However, not always reliable when it comes to our health. These doctors share the most incorrect self-diagnosis a patient has ever come up with. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
Very Rare For A Woman To Get
“Last week, I got a frantic sobbing hysterical phone call from a patient who insisted they needed to be seen right this minute. When pressed, the patient told me they were positive they had prostate cancer.
They had used the internet and had all the symptoms found on the site, so they could not wait. They needed to be seen right away.
I took a deep breath to control myself and as calmly as I could, said, ‘Ma’am, you do not have a prostate, only men do. Would an appointment next week work for you?’
She still came in because she didn’t first believe me.”
He Blamed The Air In Germany
“A patient once came to the Emergency Department accompanied by his wife because of difficulty breathing. He denied coughing, fever, sore throat, tightness of the chest, etc., and insisted the difficulty breathing was because of the bad air in Munich, Germany compared to the Bavarian countryside.
As it turns out, he and his wife were staying with their son (a Munich resident) for a week, but the vacation was not as pleasurable as one might have hoped. The patient reported it all started going downhill on the second day. After a trip to the Bavarian castles, he began having diarrhea.
He spoke in short sentences and was breathing fast and rather shallow. His vital signs were normal apart from a respiratory rate of around 30 per minute. The oxygen saturation in particular was 99 percent.
The following conversation, held half in authentic Northern Bavarian and half in my school-learned Standard High German, should be considered a masterpiece example of patient-doctor misunderstanding:
Me: ‘Did you eat anything funny in the last days leading up to the diarrhea?’
Patient: ‘I had a Döner kebap with a funny-tasting yoghurt sauce.’
Me (turning to the wife): ‘Did you also have any of the Döner?’
Before the wife could answer, the patient: ‘No, she didn’t want to eat meat on a Friday.’
The conversation went on about the onset of diarrhea, the symptoms, etc.
Me: ‘Do you still have diarrhea?’
Patient: ‘No, it stopped around the third day.’
The conversation moved on to questions about possible causes of shortness of breath. The patient denied any further symptoms. I was beginning to wonder whether the cause was a viral airway infection, a pulmonary embolism, or an acute coronary syndrome. The patient did not seem to be very differentiated when it came to describing his symptoms or his past medical history. He denied taking any medication and only when asked directly did he admit to regularly taking diclofenac for chronic knee pain due to arthritis.
I was going through the review of systems when the question about micturition came up.
Me: ‘Have you experienced any change in your urination? Does it burn when you pee? Do you have to go more often than before?’
Patient: ‘No, not at all, everything is fine. I mean, I used to have to go in the night two times, but not anymore.’
Me: ‘Could it be that you are drinking fewer fluids?’
Patient: ‘You mean other than a brew?’
Me: ‘How much do you drink?’
Patient: ‘Only one with the meal.’
Me: ‘One bottle?’
Patient: ‘One Maß’ (One Liter in Bavaria).
Me: ‘With which meal?’
Patient: ‘With every meal.’
Me: ‘You mean lunch or dinner?’
Patient: ‘Yeah, and breakfast too.’
At this time, the wife was starting to look embarrassed.
Me: ‘Have you been drinking as much since you started having the diarrhoea?’
Patient: ‘First I thought it would do me good, you know, kill the bacteria. But I figured out that I do not tolerate it as well in the city.’
Me: ‘So, what have you been drinking?’
Patient: ‘Brew, but I don’t even finish one bottle in a day.’
Me: ‘No water?’
Patient: ‘What’s the taste in the water?’
Me: ‘No water and only one bottle of brew, that’s actually too little an amount of fluid for someone recovering from diarrhea. What kind of color does your urine have?’
Patient: ‘Dark yellow.’
Me: ‘That makes sense.’
Patient: ‘I mean it has to since it comes out of my behind.‘
Patient: ‘The urine, it comes out of my behind.’
Me: ‘I am sorry, I don’t understand. You mean that you are not peeing at all and you only discharge fluid out of the butt?’
Me: ‘For how long?’
Patient: ‘For the last three days.’
Me: ‘Do you have any rectovesical fistula?’
Patient: ‘Speak German, Herr Doktor!’
Me: ‘Do you have any known connection between the rectum and the bladder?’
Patient: ‘I don’t know about that stuff. You should ask my wife.’
The wife’s face turned a deeper shade of red.
Me: ‘Do you feel any urge to urinate?’
Patient: ‘Yes, it feels like the urge before a bowel movement, but it’s urine. It’s liquid.’
Me: ‘When did you last take diclofenac?’
Patient: ‘You mean today? Right in the morning.’
At that point, I was at a loss. This man had somehow mistaken diarrhea for urine and he honestly believed he was urinating from the butt, while at the same time he had been anuric for three whole days. I proceeded to take an arterial blood gas test, which showed metabolic acidosis and severe hyperkalemia with potassium of seven mmol/l.
It turns out the man did not actually have a difficulty breathing, he had only been breathing faster to somehow compensate for the metabolic acidosis brought about by the acute renal failure. Which he had developed due to diarrhoea, reduced intake of fluids and continued self-medication with an NSAID (diclofenac, which can damage kidney function). When I announced he would be receiving fluids and special medication in the hope to avoid dialysis, he was very understanding.
Patient: ‘I am going home tonight, right?’
He did not have to undergo any dialysis treatment and he did go home one week later, having fully recovered.
When I met him on the ward:
Me: ‘You will have to go to your GP for further blood tests.’
Meaning the monitoring of the electrolytes and the kidney function.
Patient: ‘All these tests and you didn’t find out what I have? Don’t worry, Herr Doktor. My GP will sort me out.'”
“While working as a psychotherapist in a big city hospital, a physician asked me to evaluate a patient who was not in my locked psych unit. I went in to evaluate the patient and they provided me with several mental health diagnoses to include Bipolar Disorder and a psychotic disorder. I asked the patient what medications they were taking for their mental health disorders. The patient responded with a list of medications but the medications did not appear to be quite appropriate. Something was not appearing to be correct with the entire situation. At that point with the gentle art of interrogation, I was able to get the full truth of the situation.
The patient made her living as a medical coder. When a physician sees a patient they come up with a diagnosis, a medical coder then takes this diagnosis and puts it into something called an ICD-10 code and sends it off to an insurance company for payment. A medical coder is not a medical professional, they just look up a code for the diagnosis the physician gave. There is a short description that goes along with the ICD-10 code.
The patient started to read these short descriptions of illnesses and diagnosed herself with multiple mental illnesses. She was living with a guy who was genuinely mentally ill; she was taking his prescribed medications to treat her supposed mental illness. I wrote a report of this information for the attending physician and then had a long talk with the patient. I told her she fell into a trap that is taught to all new psychology students. Every mental illness you learn about you think you have. The professors teach you to not fall into that trap. I got her to agree not to take her boyfriend’s medications and got her to understand she did not have a mental illness.”
“I got a call from a new family in my practice, proclaiming their child had a large cancerous growth in the back of his throat and requesting to see ENT. The dad was so insistent. He had researched it online and wanted to skip me and get referred. There are times when we might do that, but by practice, I always want to see a patient first so I can do a full assessment. This way, if they do go to ENT or cardiology, I can paint the full picture of the issue and the rest of their health status. Also, to tell if it’s not worthy of a referral. You know, the deadly rash that turns out to be scarlatina, etc.
So, the dad reluctantly came in. They were obviously upset, and this five-year-old was scared out of his mind, as he’d obviously heard what his dad was talking about.
So it was his uvula. The large cancerous growth. Just his uvula. His tonsils were almost invisible, just a nice (maybe slightly longer than average) uvula.
I explained, ‘This is normal. Everyone has one.’
But he still didn’t believe me. So I showed him mine, the nurse’s, and even his. I showed him textbooks with pictures and labeled ‘parts’. But he wasn’t convinced. Nothing I said convinced him. He had spent two weeks convinced this was bad (and why it took 2 weeks to call is another story).
So I called one of my ENT buddies (this was a large multi-specialty clinic) and asked if he could spare five minutes for a ‘social consult’. He came down and looked, and what do you know— it was indeed a uvula.
Dad finally relaxed, and of course, my ENT buddy never let me hear the end of it.
He joked, ‘Hey, thanks for the referral. Did you notice that huge tumor in his mouth before you sent him? He didn’t need tubes, it was a deviated uvula’ On and on.
“Part of the standard questions you ask a patient when you first meet them is, ‘Have you had any problems with your health before now?’
Then I ask further questions depending on what they said. But with a lot of younger people, it was a simple ‘No’ and you could move on.
One woman, about 35 years old, told me she had suffered ‘bladder stones’ and continued at length about how she had been very ill and had surgery to remove them and how painful the abdominal wound had been afterwards. I was confused— bladder stones are rare. They’re usually removed without open surgery, and occur in much older patients.
I asked several times, ‘Do you mean kidney stones? Do you mean a bladder tumour?’
She replied, ‘Nope, bladder stones.’
And she was sticking to it. The rest of what she said made sense. So after a long discussion, I thought I had no choice but to believe her. I thought she must just be a rare case. Ok, odd, but fine. We went through the rest of the questions about medications, allergies, illnesses that ran in the family, her home set- up, job, exposure to animals or toxins.
The whole time, I was thinking, ‘Bladder stones? Bladder stones? Doesn’t make sense. Bladder stones? But she isn’t crazy. Bladder stones? Could it be? I don’t get it, must be right because she makes sense about everything else. Plus, I checked it over and over. Bladder stones, bladder stones? Why would a young woman have bladder stones? Metabolic disorder? No, she’s too well. The rest of the history doesn’t fit, so why the heck would she have bladder stones? I can’t explain it. Darn metabolic stuff, it’s really complicated. I can’t remember it too well. Will have to Google it and make sure she doesn’t see me do that. Bladder stones? Bladder stones? What was all that calcium biochemistry? Urate? Cysteine? Is that the right word? Darn! Can’t remember! Bladder stones, really? Bladder stones?’
Then she removed her T-shirt so I could examine her chest, revealing a neat right subcostal surgical scar.
I pointed at it, ‘Did you mean gallbladder stones?’
‘Yes,’ she said smiling, ‘That’s right.’
‘Could you excuse me one moment?’ I said. Then I exited to the laundry store for an ‘expletive break’ to punch a pile of blankets repeatedly.”
“Our clinic doctor encountered a pretty bad example of self-diagnosis. We work in a methadone treatment center as I am the nurse.
A few weeks ago, one of our newer patients requested a meeting with the doctor. I was still updating the chart when the doctor walked in. This patient, a 30-year-old male, instantly started yelling at us both because his teeth were breaking. He informed us he had Googled methadone treatment and discovered it makes your teeth fall out. He also warned us he was going to sue us. This guy was so convinced that three months of methadone treatment was causing all his dental problems.
Our doctor is a nice guy with a sense of humor, so he let the patient wear himself out with all his threats and complaints before he began to ask him some simple questions like these:
Doctor: ‘How long were you using dope before you started treatment?’
Guy: ’14 years.’
Doctor: ‘How often have you been brushing your teeth?’
Guy: ‘Not once in more than a decade.’
Doctor: ‘When did you last see a dentist?’
Guy: ‘When he was 12.’
Doctor: ‘What do you eat and drink?’
Guy: ‘Candy, Mountain Dew, and chicken nuggets.’
Once the doctor finished questioning him, the patient angrily asked how the past 15 years were relevant when his teeth were just now starting to break. We never managed to convince him that his problems were due to years of bad dental hygiene.”
Who Let Grandma Use The Internet?!
“I came into an exam room to see a new patient, a very nice older woman. She was sobbing quietly while grasping her friend’s hand.
The friend was murmuring sympathetic reassurances.
She said, ‘I will help you through this. You’re a fighter!’
‘Oh, Honey, What’s the matter?’ I asked while gently patting her back.
‘I have ovarian cancer,’ she whispered.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry. Who diagnosed it?’ I asked.
‘I did. I checked WebMD,’ she said.
She went on to tell me she was post-menopausal for three years but recently noticed something didn’t seem right down there. It smelled awful. So she had searched the web and decided she had cancer.
‘Hmmm. That doesn’t sound right. Let’s examine you,’ I said.
I got her on the table and did an exam. I felt something.
‘Is there a mass?’ she asked
‘Yes, but it has a convenient string.’ I said as extracted a tampon that had been in place for years
I felt so badly for her because she really felt silly.
I gave her a big hug.
I said, ‘I’m just glad that you’re ok.'”
“I did a memorable agency intake on a guy who, before I could even ask a single question, handed me a piece of paper. Written on the paper were these words: ‘Depression, PTSD, paranoid skitzofrenia.’
Me: ‘What’s this?’
Client: ‘That’s what’s wrong with me.’
Me: ‘Okay. Tell me about your depression.’
Client: ‘That means I’m depressed.’
Me: ‘I know what it means. I’m asking exactly how you experience this depression.’
Client: ‘It means that I’m sad all the time.’
Me: ‘Okay. How about PTSD?’
Client: ‘You don’t know what that means?’
Me: ‘Why don’t you tell me.’
Client: ‘It’s like depression.’
Me (sighed): ‘Okay. How about ‘paranoid schizophrenia’?’
Client: ‘That means I’m paranoid.’
Me: ‘And tell me what that means.’
Client: ‘That means I think that people are after me.’
Me: ‘And are they?’
Client: ‘Of course not! I just think they are.’
In case you’re curious, he was big-time drinker with a case-of-Budlight-per-day habit. He was hoping to be declared eligible for a permanent disability (free drinks). A friend wrote that piece of paper for him and assured him it would work. He was given an appointment with our counselor for drinkers, and never seen again.”
“I’m a trauma surgeon, and one day we got a guy who was high as a kite on Percocet and OxyContin. Yes, both. We actually found the OxyContin pill casing in his stool.
Anyway, he had crashed his car while high. Thankfully into a pole with no bystander injuries. However, he fractured his femur. It wasn’t compound, so the anesthesia team decided we could and should wait for him to come down a bit before induction for safety. About two hours into this, n/v (nausea and vomiting) secondary to Oxycodone occurs. We explained to him that n/v is a common side effect, especially in high doses. He insisted it was not that and instead must be something much more serious.
Him: ‘Nah, Doc, I need an X-ray.’
Me: ‘An X-ray? What do you think we’ll see on X-ray? I have no problem ordering an X-ray if you think it’s warranted, but I’d rather not expose a young person to unnecessary radiation if possible.’
Him: ‘I think it’s broken.’
Me: ‘It’s broken? Do you mean herniated or ulcerated? Do you have a history of GI issues? Any autoimmune disorders? Any past ulcers or tears in your stomach lining or upper intestines?’
Him: ‘Nah, none of that. I think my stomach bone is broke.’
Me: ‘Your stomach bone? Do you mean a lower rib? Maybe your pelvis?’
Him: ‘Nah, stomach bone. Ya know, the throat bone is connected to the stomach bone. The stomach bone connected to the hip bone.’
I almost quit medicine that day.”
What Was Living In Her Brain?
“I was seeing a middle-aged woman for vague neurologic symptoms in a county hospital in southern California.
She told me, ‘I think the animal that the pig makes lives in my brain.’
I was conducting the interview in my second language so on the off chance, I might’ve somehow misunderstood. So I had an interpreter come in. But I had heard correctly. ‘The animal that the pig makes lives in her brain.’
After much more discussion and a head CT scan, I discovered she had cysticercosis; scar tissue in the brain left by the pork tapeworm. It’s a fairly common diagnosis in impoverished nations. Apparently she had family members with similar symptoms and that was her understanding of what the doctor told them. Technically, the scar tissue indicated the parasites were dead, but she was otherwise right— the animal that the pig makes had been in her brain!”
A Diabetic Smell
“I once got sent to a call that came in as a diabetic call. When I arrived on scene, the patient’s girlfriend met me at the curb and told me she thought her boyfriend was having a diabetic reaction because there was a diabetic smell.
I said, ‘Ok.’ Then followed her into the house.
Once I stepped inside, I thought, ‘That’s not a diabetic smell.’
I proceeded into the basement where the patient was and found him walking around and putting together a bag to take to the hospital.
I asked him, ‘What is going on?’
He proceeded to tell me he had a wound on his foot that he thought was infected. Wound was a month old and he hadn’t sought any treatment. I took off his shoe to inspect the wound already knowing what I was going to find. I took off his sock and found a gangrenous foot. Decayed to the point that bones were showing. That diabetic smell was rotting flesh.”
Lumps On Tongue
“I once had a patient who came in to see me about lumps on her tongue.
‘I’m terrified I have cancer on my tongue. I read that it’s very serious,’ her said.
I examined her carefully. The ‘lumps’ were simply the normal row of ‘circumvallate papillae,’ which are essentially a row of taste buds that separate the front two-thirds of the tongue from the back one-third. To reassure her, I stuck out my tongue and showed her my own circumvallate papillae. An immediate appearance of relief came over her and she left the office ‘cured’ of her anxiety and fears.”
“Horrible Anxiety That Won’t Go Away”
“I was a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner, working in the psych emergency room and outpatient department of a large state psychiatric hospital. A 30-something-year-old woman signed into the emergency room because of ‘horrible anxiety that won’t go away.’
I did the basic intake interview. She complained of shortness of breath and ‘anxiety attacks’, especially at night which left her soaked with perspiration. She was highly distressed and accepted my suggestion of admission to our short-term crisis unit. I proceeded to the intake physical, where I found massive splenomegaly and enlarged lymph nodes, among other concerning findings. I ordered appropriate investigations and in a couple of days, the expected result came back.
Yes. While this unfortunate young woman did have a debilitating anxiety disorder, she was more importantly suffering from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. On the third day of admission to our crisis unit. I had her transferred to the dual diagnosis unit where both conditions could be treated.
I was no longer involved in her treatment at that point, but I heard that she did well.”