We all know those people who jump right to Google when they feel the slightest ache or pain—maybe we’re one of those people ourselves. Even so, it isn’t too often that patients are actually on the right track in terms of self-diagnosis, though it can be pretty funny what they come up with.
From traveling staples to bugs in eyeballs, here are 50 hilarious, shocking, and embarrassing stories from doctors about self-diagnoses gone wrong.
I’m a doctor in the ER and I often have a lot of patients come in with some sort of weird self-diagnosis. I once had a patient who was adamant that he had cysts in his bottom region. He described his discomfort and pain, and the texture of what he was feeling during his own investigations.
After doing some tests and having a closer look, we got down to the disturbing truth. Turns out, he just touched himself down there too much and left it irritated.
The look on his face very quickly changed from worry to relief to intense embarrassment.
This happened back when I was in med school. I will never forget what I discovered in this patient's case. I was taking the history of a guy and I asked about his past medical problems, including if he had any heart attacks.
He responded, "Oh yeah, I've had about 20 of those". I asked him to confirm what he just said and then asked if he had been seeing a doctor or cardiologist about these heart attacks. He said, "Nah, I never went to a doctor. My wife is a massage therapist, and whenever a heart attack hits, she starts to massage some pressure points and it stops".
I was confused at this point, so I asked him what it felt like when he had a heart attack. He tells me: "I don't ever remember them. My wife tells me that I fall onto the floor and my arms and legs start jerking. She says it takes about a minute of her massaging before it stops. I then get really confused and tired afterward, and I can't remember much of anything that happens to me until I take a nice long nap".
This was more than enough information for me to start some tests. The results left me baffled. Turned out, the dude was having seizures, and thought that they were heart attacks. They normally stop on their own after a few minutes, at the most. His wife thought that her massages were curing him.
During my time as a medical intern, a patient was admitted for anemia—hematocrit of 16—requiring blood transfusions. Turns out that at some point in the past, after she was diagnosed with an inborn error of metabolism, her primary care physician prescribed her vitamin B12 injections. Your body requires B12 to make hemoglobin.
But here's the thing—instead of going back for refills after she ran out, however, she headed over to her local pharmacy, bought vitamin B6 tablets, and proceeded to take two per day, and went on to explain how, you know doc, it's the same thing!
When I was a medical student rotating in OBGYN, we saw patients in the fertility clinic every Wednesday afternoon. A young couple once came complaining of, well, you guessed it, infertility. Despite having tried "every possible solution imaginable to man". They had apparently seen several doctors, and done all the tests for male and female infertility, all of which were completely normal.
They seemed really frustrated as it was the fourth time they visited a physician for the same reason and with no improvement whatsoever.
After about a 30-minute inquiry, I stepped out of the room to discuss the case with my attending, who told me to ask them to full-blown mimic their encounters with the guy's finger on a doll.
The husband's face scrunched up in anger. He then proceeded to take the doll's shirt off and insert his index finger in its navel. Turns out he was inserting the tip of his manhood into his wife's belly button, because, as he put it so eloquently, "This is where the baby will breathe from, so it would only make sense to insert my member there".
He had no idea what purpose the woman’s reproductive organs served and believed they were simply for urinating. His wife's abdomen was filled with bruises from repeated banging.
Unfortunately, we see a lot of poorly educated individuals, but this one takes the cake.
While working as a nurse at the hospital, I had a patient who insisted that her abdominal pain was from a surgery she'd had done on her arm. She failed to give any details at first and just demanded that we look up her medical history.
Her claim was outrageous—she thought that a staple that had been used to close the wound on her arm previously had somehow traveled, possibly through her bloodstream, to her abdomen, and was now causing her extreme discomfort.
I had to get some diagrams to back up my explanation when informing her that that was not actually possible.
I’m a doctor at a hospital and I once had a patient claim that amputations run in his family.
I was seeing this patient for an upcoming amputation of both legs above the knee. Except this patient had a completely different understanding of the reason why this was needed. His logic was so bad it made me lose brain cells.
He was adamant that it was not actually due to his uncontrolled diabetes, his enormous and continual sugar intake, his refusal to use insulin, or his refusal of treatment for the giant infected wounds on both feet.
Instead, he assured us, and everyone around him, that amputations just “run in the family”, and he was unlucky to be losing both of his legs as a result.
Veterinarian here. I had a client come in several years ago with a dog suffering from flea allergy dermatitis. These dogs have an allergy to flea saliva that causes them to get insanely itchy, primarily around the rear end and base of the tail.
This poor little guy had chewed his fur out to the point that his back half was just about completely hairless. So, there he sat scratching and biting at himself, covered in fleas, several of which I combed off of him. "Good news," I said. "We can fix this".
After explaining the diagnosis—which was simply fleas—the dog’s owner raised his eyebrow. I knew it was coming. He proceeded to tell me how foolish I was. The dog was not itchy because of fleas, he was chewing at himself as a psychological response to the disturbance caused by having his butt shaved by an unknown intruder who must have broken into the house while they were away.
It took me a minute to process everything he had just said, and then another minute to ensure that he was not actually joking.
I had no response to that other than to agree, that, yes, that must have been very distressing for the dog. Ultimately, we agreed to treat the fleas, just in case. Shockingly, the dog got better.
So, I worked as a psychiatrist in a hospital and was one day called into the surgery ward to counsel them on a "difficult" patient. I had no further information and when I arrived, the surgeon was away on an emergency, so the nurse told me to just go into the patient's room and start talking to her.
She was an elderly woman, maybe a little drowsy, but otherwise seemed perfectly sane and adequate.
She kept complaining that the nurses won't let her get up, but she felt fine already, just wanted to walk around a little and maybe go home later that day.
When I got back to the nurse, I told her that the patient seemed quite reasonable to me and asked her what kind of problem they were having with her. What she revealed was bone-chilling.
She led me back into the room and pulled back the blanket from her bed: both legs were amputated.
It was an incredibly difficult conversation to then have.
I’m a physician at a local clinic in Chicago. A lady came to the clinic with her eight-month-old baby and she was pretty freaked out. Her baby had diarrhea for the last few weeks and it wasn't going away. She tells us that she initially wasn't concerned but then her friend told her that diarrhea is the first sign of AIDS and now she was convinced her baby contracted AIDS.
We quickly ruled that out through their medical records and assured her that her baby didn't contract AIDS randomly. As we finished examining the baby, she started to cry so we handed her to the mother.
Lo and behold, she pulls out a baby bottle to get the baby to stop crying. When I looked at its contents, my jaw dropped. This baby bottle was filled with red Kool-Aid.
We had to explain to her that babies can't handle sugar at that age and that was the cause of the diarrhea. She was actually making her infant very sick with what she was giving her.
She refused to believe what we said. "I was raised on Kool-Aid and look at me I'm fine". She continued to tell her baby drinks almost nothing but this red Kool-Aid and it hasn’t been a problem…until now.
Man, the south side of Chicago is a completely different world.
I’m a family physician. I had a woman scheduled for a routine exam. She came into the exam room after she got off the scale and she asked what her weight was. She was approximately 10 pounds heavier than the previous visit and seemed upset. So, I asked her what about her weight was bothering her.
She said she was trying to lose weight but it didn't seem like her diet was working. I casually asked what her diet was thinking she was trying some of the new fad diets. Her one-word answer startled me: "Bacon".
Apparently, her friend told her that if she added pork bacon to all her meals, she'd lose weight. So, she took that to the extreme and had been eating bacon four or five times a day for the last month.
She was shocked when she learned that she was doing the exact opposite of what she was supposed to do. We also discovered that her new diet change may be the result of many other ailments she was recently experiencing.
As a self-diagnosing patient, one day I noticed a white, hard, jagged object protruding from my back gums. At the time, I couldn’t believe what was happening—I was having a tooth come in, especially since I'm 23 and had my wisdom teeth taken out years ago. It was really starting to irritate me the more that I was thinking about it.
So, I went to the dentist and started explaining how I was having this freak incident where a tooth was growing at the back of my mouth, where teeth had previously been removed.
I didn’t even want the dentist to look, I requested I get some X-rays done right away. Thankfully, they obliged. Not long later, the dentist comes into the room with the X-ray picture in his hand and sits down to very calmly inform me that the object protruding from my gums was actually something completely different. When he told me, I shook my head.
It was a tortilla chip.
I just finished med school, so I don’t have too much experience, but I had an elderly woman come into the ER with a new-onset seizure. The patient's daughter was seriously convinced that her mother had a brain tumor.
The daughter was agitated and demanded all sorts of tests. She was on her phone reading to us what she was finding on the internet. She continued to suggest that anything affecting the brain was most definitely a brain tumor. All it took was a simple look-up to figure it all out.
Upon reviewing the patient’s medications, it turned out the patient had been out of her Xanax prescription for four days and had a withdrawal seizure.
After getting the patient back on track, we continued to monitor for several weeks and she had not had another seizure after that.
I am on the board of a non-profit that offers free HIV and other STD tests. We use the inner cheek swab test that gives results in 20 minutes and is fairly cheap—about $13 per test.
The test is very sensitive as it is better to get false positives than false negatives. If someone tests positive, we redo the test, and if it comes back positive again, we help them make arrangements for a blood draw test—which is much more expensive and takes about a week.
One day we had a young man test positive, we tested again and it came back positive. We told him quite clearly that it is possible for this to be a false positive and that a blood test would confirm it. He signed paperwork stating that he had been told this. We arranged for him to get a blood draw at the county health district office.
He never showed.
Instead, he whipped up a master plan of deception—he proceeded to tell all of his friends and relatives that he had AIDS and that he was going to pass away soon. He sold and gave away most of his stuff and went on a drunken bender where he got himself booked for drinking and disorderly conduct. When he was behind bars, he finally got a blood test where they found out that he wasn't HIV positive, he just had the right combination of proteins in his system to give us a false positive on the cheek swab test.
When he got out he gave us a call and told us this woeful tale. Our response was essentially, "Congratulations on getting a negative test result. We do have some information and counseling available if you would feel you need to adjust your behavior to minimize your risk of contracting HIV".
"Oh no," he says, "I just wanted to know if I am supposed to sue you guys, the folks who made the swab test, or the guy who administered the test".
Apparently, he had met a lawyer when he was behind bars who had convinced him this was the best course of action. We simply got out his signed form, got a testimony from everyone involved and sent it to the judge, and got pro bono help from a local lawyer to get it dismissed.
I had a patient who was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast—breast cancer—confirmed with a biopsy. Surgery was prepped for two weeks’ time.
The patient then went to an outside facility for a mammogram, for a second opinion. The radiologist stated that the mass was benign.
The patient then wrote an email to her primary doctor—my attending physician—and it had a shocking message: "PRAYER WORKS. Please find attached report stating I no longer have breast cancer. Please tell the doctor that I will no longer need surgery".
Cue furious emails to the surgeon with a sense of impending doom.
It is the right of every patient to get a second opinion. That being said, I really hope the other facility did not know about her current diagnosis. Allowing a patient to think that a mammogram supersedes a biopsy result would be malpractice.
To be fair to the patient, I think most people's medical literacy is extremely poor.
The average person on the street would probably have no idea about the differences in screening, confirmation, staging/grading, etc.
The patient ended up meeting with our team again and ultimately agreed to do the surgery and accept treatment. Cancer is a very difficult thing to come to terms with.
I had a 19-year-old female patient come in asking for antifungal medication because she was convinced that she had oral thrush. She and her boyfriend had Googled her symptoms, and at 19 you're never wrong.
When I suggested that perhaps we check an EBV antibody to rule out mono, she looked at me like I was actively drooling on myself. Ultimately she refused, because there was, "no way I can have mono". Little did she know I would soon prove her so wrong.
Eventually, I convinced her to have some diagnostic testing done, and sure enough she had mono. I tried to explain that having oral thrush as a 19-year-old could possibly be much more concerning than mononucleosis, but she didn't seem to get it.
She seemed pretty disappointed that her self-diagnosis was off. How could Google be wrong?
My husband and I greatly misdiagnosed him ourselves. He had a really bad sinus infection—with typical symptoms. After doing all the home remedies he could find, he went to the doctor and they simply took his word for it and handed over some standard antibiotics. He went home and followed the doctor’s orders to rest and meds.
After he was still not feeling any better after ten days, he went back to the doctor requesting more antibiotics for this sinus infection that just wouldn’t quit. At this point, we believed he ignored it for too long, and it would just take more antibiotics to kick it.
Except this time, they admitted him to the hospital because they now thought he now had mono. Unfortunately, it was worse than that—and nothing could have prepared us for what came next.
Finally, since he was actually admitted to the hospital, someone did some actual testing and it turned out that he had leukemia.
Never again will we self-diagnose, or rely on home remedies without a doctor’s opinion.
A man came into the ER in a serious panic thinking he had incurable skin cancer. He had been doing his own research, of course, and everything pointed to cancer.
After calming the patient down, I simply asked to have a look at the area he was claiming to be skin cancer. He struggled to take his socks and shoes off as he was so flustered.
Once he revealed it, I rolled my eyes. It turned out to be a simple wart on his foot.
To be fair, some warts can be pretty bizarre-looking, and any concern of skin cancer should definitely be followed up. I assured the patient it was okay to be concerned, but he was deeply embarrassed by his reaction.
I'm an orthopedic surgeon, so patients are really often unable to diagnose themselves because they don't have the power of MRI or scoping. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t.
The most incorrect self-diagnosis I've encountered was a patient who had come in and believed they broke their hip after a fall.
After routine imaging, we came across a nerve-wracking discovery—the patient actually had a 2-inch piece of wood lodged into their side. It was at that point that the patient informed me that it was a piece of his broken skateboard. He completely forgot that happened!
It was a very interesting surprise, to say the least!
I am not a doctor, but a patient that had a very wrong self-diagnosis.
It was the summer of 2008. I was at work with a massive headache. I decided to head home early. Thinking my eyes were acting up again. I'd suffered from severe light sensitivity since I was 12. This wasn't entirely uncommon. I suffered from these headaches often, but always just went home to sleep it off. I thought it was nothing serious—until I went to my doctor.
While in the lobby of the building, I pass out. I wake up in the hospital and the doctor is talking with a nurse insisting I get another set of X-rays, "there's no way this is right, have a different tech take another set of images". Then he walks out.
So, now I'm asking what's up, and no one is explaining anything. I have another set of X-rays done, and a bunch of other scans. Eventually, the doctor comes in. Still, no one has explained anything to me. No matter how much I ask, they keep saying, "Wait for the doctor to get back".
Finally, the doctor comes in and tells me they're going to need to prep me for surgery. I immediately ask about my eyes. He seems confused, "did no one tell you what's going on"?
The doctor then gets all upset. His next words took the air out of my lungs: "You're missing 1/3 of your skull. Or more appropriately, the bone marrow inside the entire right side of your head is necrotic. It's just sitting there between slivers of bone. When's the last time you've been to the dentist"?
I tell him that I didn’t know exactly, it had to be around 10 to 15 years ago. I had planned on going next month now that I finally had insurance for the first time.
He then tells me, “Well we're not sure how it is you're still alive. But this has been building for at least 10 years. An abscess in your gums has burrowed up into your bone".
A week later, after a bunch of specialists are consulted, I had my teeth, gums, soft palate, and entire right side of my skull drained of fluid and removed. But the worst part? I was awake through most of it, and no amount of pain medication was enough to deal with the worst of it. Everything was replaced by mostly a plastic polymer, with some metal studs to snap everything together.
It turns out, my photosensitivity issues weren't a related symptom. If you have light sensitivity and get headaches; don't worry. It's normal for photo-sensitive eyes to get headaches in bright light. If you have an abscess though, go to the dentist. No matter how much it costs.
Optometrist here. This happened while I was on rotations as a student. The practice was used to seeing patients from rural areas, educated up to high school, usually some missing teeth.
Anyway, this lady was painfully convinced she had a bee in her eye. I had to leave the room to get the doctor so he could translate.
When I took a closer look, my heart stopped—it turned out that she had floaters, which is when the jelly in the back of the eye degenerates down to a liquid, and the patient sees shadows of the chunks of jelly floating around in the back of the eye.
This is very common as you get older, even common in some younger people who've played rigorous sports.
This woman had a buzzing sensation associated with the floaters, which caused her to truly believe that she had bees buzzing around inside her eyeball.
This is a hilarious story that my in-laws love to tell of the time their newborn son was misdiagnosed with a brain tumor.
So, my boyfriend was born in a teaching hospital. A few days after he was born, the doctors informed his parents that there was concern about a possible brain tumor—given the size of the infant’s head. Obviously, this sent the new parents into an immediate panic—but the truth was just silly.
Several tests later, it ended up being that he just had a huge head. He was fine then, and he has been fine ever since. Now they make fun of him for it!
I had a teenager and her mom come into the Emergency Department worried that she had some kind of serious circulation problem because her toes were turning blue.
I looked at her feet and thought, "That's not really the right shade for loss of blood flow".
So, I figured I’d try something before jumping to any conclusions. My plan was kind of genius—I grabbed a cleansing swab and proceeded to wipe her toes. The blue color easily came off the tops of her toes. I think it was from her new jeans.
The panic immediately left the poor Mother’s face, and the girl cried out that she was thankful she wasn’t going to lose her toes.
A guy once came to the clinic I work with what he called a friction burn on his manhood, simply looking for some cream to ease the burn.
After taking a closer look, it was actually a syphilis chancre—a sexually transmitted infection. He was skeptical, though. He had no idea how that could have happened and assured me over and over that it could not be an STI as he did not currently have a partner. But I could see right through his act.
After a long stare down by me, he finally admitted to doing something he “was not supposed to be doing”. He never elaborated on that, and I was given the impression that I shouldn’t ask.
The imaginations of my fellow teammates did not disappoint.
I had a very concerned young woman come into the ER who'd been doing some WebMD research. She was truly convinced that she had an abdominal aortic aneurysm because she'd been feeling some movement in her abdomen that she thought was a pulsatile mass.
After running some routine tests, her actual diagnosis was quite surprising for her. She was pregnant. The "pulsatile mass" she'd been feeling was just a fetus kicking around.
The woman had absolutely no idea this was a possible explanation and had a whole list of other possible ailments. She was already a few months along but claimed to have had no other pregnancy symptoms.
It took some time to convince her, but eventually, she took our word for it and realized how lucky she was that her issue is pregnancy, rather than any of her other possible issues—most being terminal diseases.
The most incorrect self-diagnosis I have had as a doctor in the ER was a middle-aged man who was brought in by EMS after a car accident. He was having some thigh pain and said he thought it was just a bruise, and he was just brought in for a quick look as part of the protocol.
I lifted the sheet, took a look, put the sheet back down, and said, "Sir, your femur is sticking through your skin". I’ll never forget the look on his face.
Now, in fairness, EMS had already told me about the open femur fracture, but how the patient wasn't aware is beyond me. He immediately panicked because he could not feel the extent of his injuries—which, I’m not going to lie, had me just as confused.
It definitely was more than a bruise, though.
The most entertaining self-diagnosis I have encountered so far involved an 18-year-old, brand-new college freshman who came into the ER on a Saturday afternoon with what she truly believed was "alcohol poisoning". Her symptoms included extreme nausea, headache, and just feeling completely awful.
But I noticed something was off right away—interestingly enough, symptoms only started that morning. After running a few tests to be sure, I told her she had nothing more than a hangover. She asked me if I was sure because this had to be something more serious.
Poor girl, this must have been her first hangover.
I’m not a doctor, but I have a story of a self-diagnosis gone wrong.
My dad had this pain in his back that he swore up and down was some kind of muscle knot. He lived with it for a very long time, believing he could simply massage it out. He got this pain a lot and just continued to use different massage techniques to relieve the discomfort. No matter what we said, he refused to get it checked out.
Eventually, he did seek a medical opinion when his legs started to go numb for an unknown reason. The findings were life-changing—It turned out to be a tumor the size of his fist in his vertebra (multiple myeloma). His legs went numb because it was pushing on his spinal column.
He literally thought he had a knot in his muscle, but it was cancer.
That was three years ago. Even though he put it off for way too long, his surgery went well and he's still cancer-free today. Since then though, no one in the family will self-diagnose. My mother sends us to the clinic for a simple cold now. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
I am an EMT and my partner and I attended a call where an elderly woman called emergency services because her son was lying unconscious on her living room floor.
We showed up and immediately went searching for this unconscious person. After a thorough search of the home, the elderly woman was the only person there. We continued a quick search of the outside and then proceeded to question the elderly woman a little more, thinking maybe the person had come to and left. Then, we discovered the gut-wrenching truth.
It turned out that she was actually hallucinating. A diagnosis so wrong it involved someone else—who lived over an hour away and had not been present in some time.
I suppose it’s a good thing she called. But we were completely caught off guard by this one.
I had a patient who was a lab tech for a chemo facility. He came in one night freaking out that he had skin cancer because there was a new spot on his abdomen present for two days.
I looked at the spot up close and I had an instant revelation—wasn't skin at all. I scraped at it a bit, and it rolled up and fell off leaving his nice lesion-less skin beneath.
It was the consistency of a fruit roll-up and dark green. The only thing I can think of it is a booger that dried to his skin.
The poor guy felt ridiculous and left in a hurry.
When I was younger, around the ages of 17 to 19 I started shaking in the mornings. This was when I began drinking and, like many young Australians, I drank to excess. So, for a few months, I'd shake and convulse in the morning and I thought it was just "the shakes". I'd heard about it previously with drinking addicts but never read up on what it was.
Finally, after a series of potentially dangerous situations—crashing a car into some bins, passing out in a kitchen and wasting a peanut butter sandwich, and flinging soap bars into every nook and cranny of the bathroom—my family caught on and told me to go see a doctor.
I still didn't listen though, and eventually, I had a large convulsion and passed out again. To me, it was just "Oh that darn thing again". But when I was coming to, I discovered I had a busted arm and couldn't remember my name.
There were two strangers in a blue uniform telling me it was okay and that I had a seizure. But the reality of my situation totally caught me off guard. Turned out I was epileptic—juvenile myoclonic.
I used to drive while this was happening, and ride motorbikes offroad. I was working with heights on a daily basis and with heavy equipment. I'd been having those shakes for nearly 18 months by that point.
Thankfully I was brought to a hospital and spoke to a neurologist, or I would have continued on thinking it was from drinking too much.
I was so lucky I never ended myself or anyone else before then. I was stupidly lucky, but have never since relied on "self-diagnosis".
I realized now that I was an idiot. The neurologist thought I was joking when I said I thought it was the shakes from drinking, and he told me to look up my condition.
This one is my own self-diagnosis. I went to the ER because I was really stoned and thought my hernia was bursting through my muscle wall. I didn’t bother to look inside my pants, I just put pressure on my groin, where the hernia was, and swore it was all going to pop out.
I got there, and the nurse told me to move my hands. Her face went flush red. "Dude, that's just your manhood". It was probably the most embarrassing moment I’ve ever had.
Doctor here. This happened to a classmate of mine in our third year of medical school:
So, my friend is trying to get into shape and goes weightlifting. He feels something painful in his chest while doing the bench press. He stops lifting and just thinks he sprained a muscle.
Over the next couple of days, the pain just keeps getting worse. He even has his supervising resident take a look at his shoulder and chest during rounds one day in the hospital. They just shrug it off as a pulled muscle, too, and he figures it will start getting better in a couple of days.
Fast forward two days later. This is when things start getting interesting. He's cooking dinner for his girlfriend in his kitchen when he passes out. Luckily for him, his girlfriend is a nurse. She shakes him awake and drives him straight to the Emergency Department.
There, they get a chest X-ray that shows his entire left chest whited out with severe mediastinal shift Everything between his lungs was pushed over to the right side of his chest from the sheer amount of pressure in his thorax.
The doctor immediately sticks a needle in his chest, and according to the girlfriend, the blood went out at least six feet across the room and hit the wall. They drained two and a half liters of blood and he ended up in the hospital for two weeks with a chest tube.
So, he thought it was a sprained muscle, but really his chest was filling up with blood by the minute.
I’m not a doctor, but I self-diagnosed myself once which actually gave me quite a scare.
I had some clear/slightly yellowish fluid run like water from a faucet out of my nose for a few seconds once. After I cleaned myself up, I then went to Wikipedia, expecting it to be completely normal.
Then I found that it had all the makings of a CSF—cerebrospinal fluid—leak, which could be caused by a brain tumor, possibly due to head trauma.
I play sports pretty often, so a head trauma sounded like it was a definite possibility. It said if it happened again, I should get it checked immediately since it could be indicative of a potentially life-threatening condition. That sounded bad.
So, I waited a few days, panicking at every little tickle I had around my face. Thankfully, it didn't happen again.
In the meantime, I started developing more symptoms, like a cough and fatigue. I was now super worried so I went to the doctor.
It turned out I just had a cold. I had mentioned the brain fluid but, apparently, it's also common to have a fluid drain like that when you have a cold.
My wife is a nurse at an allergy clinic. One of the things the doctor recommends to his patients is eliminating food items they think they might be allergic to from their diet if they're only getting mild symptoms, as it usually takes months to get into an allergy specialist.
Some people don't catch on—and I'm sure he goes into MUCH more explicit instructions than I am here—that you're supposed to REINTRODUCE those food items if the symptoms aren't going away.
So, for example, if you think you're allergic to peanuts, but are still getting allergic reactions even if you don't eat peanuts, it's a good chance you're not allergic to peanuts but rather something else.
Unfortunately, this advice backfired in one case—and it was utterly troubling.
Anyway, there was a lady that had come in and was eliminating food item after food item from her very young child's diet to the point where for months all she would prepare for him was rice. Sorry, not rice, rice that had been strained... and not the rice itself, but rather the broth that she strained off the rice. This had been going on for weeks. I don't think the kid was still having reactions, but he was definitely not doing well. I assume CPS was called.
My brother-in-law had been putting on weight for a while, mainly around his stomach, and decided to get back into lifting. One day, he gets severe abdominal pain and thinks he tore something. He suffers through the pain for a couple of weeks, assuming he is just very out of shape.
Eventually, my sister convinces him to visit his doctor, who gets him an ultrasound. One look at the ultrasound, and they've got him booked for an MRI that day. “Wait here”, they say, “you shouldn't leave the building”.
He phones my sister, mostly carefree, who then starts freaking out because she works as a receptionist in a medical clinic. She knows they don't actually fast-track you through tests the same day for no reason.
Later on, they finally made a discovery...and it was mind-blowing. It turns out the reason he wasn't losing weight was because of a mass roughly the size of an Aussie rules football on his stomach. The doctor orders a biopsy, gets the results, consults a cancer specialist, and then schedules to take out the mass in two weeks’ time.
After they get home, the cancer doctor calls them back and says, “Let's move that up to tomorrow”. It turns out it was a really rare form of cancer that the specialist had to look up the literature on. It was an extremely fast-growing, super rare cancer with a name I can't remember because it's about twenty letters long.
Eventually, they removed a 3-kg mass, along with part of his stomach. He was on chemo for a while and will have six-month check-ups for the rest of his life, but otherwise, he’s good.
Sunny side up, it's now really easy for him to lose weight.
My friend had a really weird feeling in his eye, that he initially said felt like bugs crawling around his eyeball. He had rubbed it and flushed it with water and it was super red and swollen.
His dad thought he was on all kinds of things to make him high and kept brushing it off and telling him to relax. My friend thought he was going crazy, and then it escalated and he truly thought he was going to pass away from whatever it was that was in his eye. That's when things got serious.
He finally went to the Emergency Department, where again, his family assured the doctors that he was potentially on crack, but sure enough, the doctor ended up tweezing six bot fly larvae from his eyeball. He literally DID have bugs in his eye!
Apparently, there are 6000 cases a year—or something—of this in the US alone.
When the Ebola case happened in Dallas, we had a woman run into our clinic panicked and crying and demanding to be seen. Her story made everybody scoff with utter skepticism. She was sure she had Ebola because she had a fever and had "driven through Dallas with the windows down the day before".
She tested negative, by the way.
I once dealt with a guy in training who had serious delusions of parasitosis—meaning he believed he had a parasite in his body. Patients like this are usually very difficult to reason with as this is a serious psychiatric disorder.
This patient brought in the "worms" he had dug out of his face, on strips of tape. We sent it off to pathology and the tests came back with unnerving results—the worms were actually nerve endings from his face.
Based on his exam we think he was slowly pulling out the peripheral aspect of his left facial nerve. I still shudder thinking about that guy.
We thought my husband had the man-flu. He was feeling unwell for quite some time, but the rest of the family just cracked jokes about how he couldn’t handle a cold.
Eventually, he had enough of no one believing him and he went to the doctor, who ordered blood tests. The results left everyone in disbelief. Turned out, he did not have the man-flu but cancer and had less than a month to live if he didn't start treatment as soon as possible.
I’m not a doctor, but I do have a story about self-diagnosis.
I once had the unfortunate experience of having to do a college project—nothing to do with medicine, sorry—with a girl who introduced herself with the following words: "Hi, I'm Ramona and I have severe depression and I am bipolar".
I just said, “Okay. Hi”. I didn't want to cause a fuss and frankly, I'm willing to give anybody a chance, so we got to work. Well, by "working" I mean, we sat there and she rambled to me about her life for the whole work period.
I forget most of it, but it was exceptionally petty stuff. Nothing I would complain about to somebody I just met. I eventually got a chance to actually speak and was like, "So, when were you diagnosed with that stuff"? Her response is what you’ve been waiting for.
She replied: "Oh, I never was. I've never been to the doctor for anything other than like, the flu or whatever".
I asked her how she knows that she's bipolar with severe depression if she's never even attempted to get this diagnosed, and she proceeded to tell me that you can totally read about this stuff on the internet and if the symptoms apply to you, you obviously have it.
She also said that she's always had trouble making friends and that it obviously was because she had a bunch of mental problems she'd read about online. People just didn't understand her.
Sure. That's totally the reason.
Dr. Google helped me realize I had cancer or scurvy. This diagnosis, however, would end up making me look like an idiot. Thankfully, the real doctor informed me it was bronchitis.
Dr. Google can be useful at times. I was told my whole life I was just 'dramatic' and 'not even sick'. After googling symptoms for a while, I thought maybe I was hypothyroid. I suggested it to my skeptical doctor, and after he ran some tests, he was left totally speechless. It turned out that not only was I correct, but I'm hypothyroid due to several compounding autoimmune diseases and was even sicker than I thought I was, and likely will be for my whole life. Take that, school nurse.
I am not a doctor, but a pharmacist so I hope I'm allowed to play.
The patient had a cold and was convinced it was severe sinusitis. This person was a bit of a known hypochondriac. She saw the doctor and got a script for an antibiotic.
She was also convinced she was allergic to every antibiotic tried until all that was left was a type of antibiotic that isn't usually used in URTIs at a sub-therapeutic dose—because she's "very sensitive to medications". The infection wasn't going away so she took antibiotics for longer and longer.
She somehow got her hands on a blood glucose machine and must have had a reading that was slightly low one day because all of a sudden, she started buying bags and bags of jelly beans. She said it was because "the infection is making my blood sugar go dangerously low". Her reading was fasting ~4mmol/L, so it was normal. She had no idea she was just making things worse.
So, now she was taking more and more glucose and moved onto the straight glucose powder now to control the "dumping syndrome" that the infection caused. The symptom of her "dumping syndrome": is blood glucose dropping rapidly—because she is on a diet consisting of pretty much solely pure glucose—to her version of "dangerous levels".
She was testing her blood glucose on average 20 times a day and taking about 250gm of pure glucose at least, plus supplementing with lollies from the supermarket for some variety.
We've consulted with the doctor. Nobody can convince her otherwise, we've all tried. She's put on ~15kg in the last month or so and will definitely end up with diabetes soon.
The doctor made a mistake the other day. In exasperation, she said to her—during her third appointment that month—"You should count yourself lucky, there are people far worse than you that can't even get out of bed".
Next thing you know, she now gets deliveries because she is “so sick she can't get out of bed”.
A lovely, healthy 50-something lady patient presented with her best friend because she was unable to walk. It turns out she had been becoming weaker over the past couple of months and now had been bed-bound for two weeks, with no guess as to why.
As she talked, she waved her hand over the right side of her chest and mentioned something about a problem there. I took a look. She had breast cancer that was so advanced that it was ulcerating through the skin in an area about the size of a small orange. I'll never forget seeing that.
It's such a shame because she was such a lovely lady. We talked for about half an hour and during that, I found that she had put it down to a lot of stress overwhelming her life lately to do with her son leaving home and a few other things.
She seemed like a spiritual lady, and she was so sensitive and overwhelmed at the time that I had to take things very slow with her. During that 30 minutes, I really felt that I connected with her and slowly helped her understand what was actually going on and that the next few weeks would be tough with treatments, etc.
This was about a month after I had started as a junior doctor. The next day I got a complaint to my supervisor from the head nurse for taking too long with a patient, plus a whole lot of other made-up stuff about being unprofessional, etc. to make her claim sound better. I even had to go to meetings with management etc.
Anyway, the reason the patient couldn't walk was because of high calcium from metastases all through her bones. I treated that and she was able to walk again a few days later. I looked up her file about three months after and she was still alive, on hormone therapy to slow the cancer's progression.
Veterinary technician here.
Twice I have had people worried that their dog's abdomen was "covered in ticks". Turns out both times to be the nipples. One of them stated someone told them to try to burn the "ticks" off. Another one asked why their male dog had nipples and why they had never seen them before.
Another one was a guy that brought his three-year-old beautiful spaniel in because he saw "tapeworms all over his rear end". The dog comes in severely lethargic and with a diaper on as he also had severe diarrhea.
When I pulled back the diaper, I screamed and jumped back in shock. I found maggots. Everywhere.
He said he googled a picture of tapeworms and that's what it looked like. Uh, no. The dog apparently had a small wound near his rear that got infested with maggots and by putting the diaper on, it only exacerbated the problem.
The poor dog ended up dying later that evening after spending hours removing the maggots, shaving hair, and administering every medication we could. We told the guy next time to not Google things and bring in his pets immediately if there is ever anything that seems off. I think he learned his lesson.
It was a very difficult day for my team, that’s for sure.
I’m a student doctor at a hospital, with a pretty interesting story here. A self-diagnosis that led to self-treatment as well.
So, we got a patient admitted to the ER with sharp and heavy chest pain. We did some further examination and noticed really bad broken ribs, and small trauma to the back of the head.
We asked the patient and his wife what may have caused the trauma, and they said they didn’t know. The wife spoke up and said, “I took care of him, all is good”. Well, the reality was, nothing about the situation was good.
I looked at the report from the paramedics, and apparently, the wife did cause the broken ribs. The husband and wife were driving home when the husband began having a heart attack, so he told his wife to pull over. They both got out of the car and the husband laid down on the ground and told his wife to initiate CPR.
The paramedics arrived at a woman furiously pushing down this man’s chest while he was literally cheering her on saying, "Keep going babe, it’s working”.
So, I'm a registered therapist and I work with kids. The worst misdiagnosis I’ve had so far was a family with a two-week-old baby. They were convinced that the baby had anxiety because he cried a lot.
They also believed this tiny infant had autism, because he made little eye contact, and that he had bipolar disorder because he would seem content and then suddenly angry.
I spent literal hours with this couple, explaining child development, what these diagnoses mean, and how they would present in children. I provided them with books, hand-outs, etc. I thought that would put an end to their nonsense—but I was so wrong.
They didn’t believe me and insisted on going to see my co-worker and a psychiatrist as I was surely lying to them. Even after meeting with the other two professionals, they still weren't convinced.
They requested psychiatric medication from the doctor for their two-week-old infant—which, of course, they were denied.
My team and I are still, to this day, greatly worried for the future of that sweet baby. But sadly, we haven’t seen the family since.
I was working in the ER and a patient came in with what he thought was a rash, along with the flu. He was morbidly obese and he had a red rash around one of his skin folds. He came in for the flu symptoms though, and just happened to mention the rash when prompted about any other symptoms.
Upon further investigation, a laceration under one of his skin folds was discovered. It was deeply infected, and because of his size, he hadn’t known it was there. That's when a horrible realization hit me.
He ended up having necrotizing fasciitis—flesh-eating disease—and unfortunately, was gone the next day.
This is the type of thing that will take your life within only a few days. It is very difficult to treat, but it is also extremely rare. Usually, the cases I have seen happen to individuals who cannot physically see the area on their body that is infected—because it is unreachable due to the size or shape of the body.
I had a male patient come into the Emergency Department complaining of a "breast lump". He anxiously stated that the mass was very painful to touch and was convinced that he was going to pass away from breast cancer. He had been doing his own research and was even willing to share his sources.
After a battery of questions, I asked him to take off his shirt so I can examine and touch the mass. After a couple of seconds, I turned to him and said, "Sir, that lump is your rib".
I thought he would be pleased that he was not terminal, but instead, he took it an unnecessary step further. He called me a "dumb kid" and asked to see my attending, as I was a student at the time.
The patient asked the attending why, if it is a rib, it would hurt so much. The doctor replied, "Sir, you've been rubbing and irritating the area for days now, you've been hurting yourself".
I've never seen a man leave the hospital that fast.
I’m an ER doctor. I had a patient come in with symptoms that he thought were from IBS—irritable bowel syndrome. After taking a detailed description of his pain and symptoms, I had some scans done to take a look at his insides. The images gave me chills...and not the good kind.
It definitely was not IBS. I was completely blown away by the fact that this man had no idea what was causing his pain.
The patient had a HUGE tapeworm making a home in his intestines.
I'm a pathologist. I was once sent a sample of tissue that the patient had found in her underwear. She took it to her general practitioner who sent it to the lab, fearing the worst. I then proceeded to process the sample.
Nothing could have prepared me for the results. It was a semi-digested tomato.
Believe it or not, this isn’t the first vegetable I had come across in my profession. I had a similar case that was sent as a parasite or worm for identification, but it was actually a long piece of carrot.
I am still baffled at how these veggies end up where they do. My imagination takes me to some dark places.
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