Doctors Share The Most Outrageous Self Diagnosis They’ve Seen From A Patient
There is an old phrase, “physician heal thyself.” It’s supposed to be a warning to doctors to basically make sure they know their stuff before they start practicing medicine on others and self diagnosis.
Sadly, many patients think they are capable healers when they have no training and no background to make their own diagnosis. It doesn’t stop them from trying though. Dr. Google has many resources for every itch, pain, and rash you have, and of course, all of it means cancer.
Professionals in the healthcare field came together recently on Reddit to discuss this peculiar tendency of people to think they know their own bodies and the field of medicine well enough to know exactly what’s wrong with them. As you might expect, most of the time these patients were dead wrong.
In fact, more often than not, the self-diagnosis of these patients were so far off base they might as well have been on the moon.
Warning: Some of this content in this article is graphic and not for the light-hearted.
#1 Food Coloring And Blood Are Not The Same
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.
#2 Fish Is Not A Stroke
As a paramedic, I responded to a dispatch for a “sick person.” When we arrived, this old guy 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.
#3 A Bad Diet Isn’t Child Cancer
Pediatrician 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 garbage you substitute it with.
#4 High People Aren’t Dead
Not a doctor, but a psych first responder.
Patient self-diagnosed as dead. EMTs 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 buzzed with a bad substance combination. I had a fun hour with him while he came down.
#5 You Have To Have The Parts To Have The Disease
As a medic, I had a soldier run up to me and demand to see the PA. 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.
Edit to add a note: The soldier in question was symptom-free, and we definitely still let the soldier see his provider.
#6 Drinking Leads To Imaginary Cancer
Not a doctor, but my roommate was convinced that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma 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, 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 eight hours.
#7 Burns Are, Sadly, Not A Rare Condition
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 too dumb to figure it out.
#8 Pregnancy Makes A Lot Of Mistakes
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 GI 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 ED, 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.
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, I guess, and 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…”
#9 A Bike Saves A Life
A man who rode his bike as the sole method of transportation came in for chronic knee and leg pain. He had metastatic prostate cancer with bone lesions all over. Came in for my legs hurt, left with hospice referral.
#10 Being A Jerk Isn’t An Illness
I was in my work placement for years when this happened. A man in his early 20s has committed a crime and claimed that he wouldn’t be going to jail because he self-diagnosed himself with personality disorder from a Google search. Police officers brought him in for my mentor to diagnose him. My mentor’s exact words: “You do not suffer from a personality disorder. You’re just a jerk.”
I am waiting for the day I could use the same line as my now-retired mentor.
#11 A Tragic Tale
In high school, I was the heavyweight county champion in wrestling. I weighed about 260 at the most. Graduated last year and maintained weight until December 2016. Went to the doctor in February and she was shocked to find out I weighed 217. She asked if I still worked out and stayed active.
So she sends me to get an x-ray because she was concerned about the sudden weight loss. I thought I was just hitting my last growth spurt. Yeah, no. Stage 4 anaplastic thyroid cancer.
#12 Laziness Or Mono? It’s Not A Tough Call
When I was 15, my mother was absolutely convinced that I had mono as 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 lazy.
Side note: 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.
#13 Husband Beats Doctor
Not a doctor. But a doctor diagnosed my wife with an STD (chlamydia maybe). Huge fight. Wife was emotionally crushed. She accused me of cheating. Messed up. I punched her symptoms into WebMD and told her it was probably kidney stones. Turned out to be kidney stones.
#14 Chips Lead To Panic
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.
#15 Shrugging Off The Serious
Late to this but my friend has an incredibly tough, alcoholic grandma
She ignored a stroke because she thought it was a hangover.
#16 A Fracture You Definitely Do Not Want
I’m not a doctor, but I am a medical assistant. I did my preceptor at a Kidney and Hypertension center. Had a guy come in complaining of painful urination and thought he had a UTI. 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 first-come-first-serve kind of thing. Well, this guy went back because there was blood in his urine. A lot of it.
This guy was beyond 300lbs by the way. Just massive and extremely tall. Doctors got him in the room and stayed for maybe 15 minutes before we had him transferred to the ER. 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. She said she’d 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.
#17 Cramps Fail To Tell The True Story
Not a doctor but is somewhat related. This one night I started getting some excruciating cramps that were so bad I had to wake my mom. She asks me where the pain was and I pointed out the right side of my stomach, and instantly she tells me to get in the car, and we go to the ER. She thought I had appendicitis. We get there, I’m hooked up to morphine, and they get an X-ray. I didn’t have appendicitis… I just had to defecate real bad.
#18 Back Ache Can Be Really Serious
Know two people, a good friend, and my sister’s fiance, who complained of backaches, like they pulled a muscle.
Went from pain to them passing away in less than 90 days.
#19 A Confusion Of Terms
“Ok so why do you think you have glaucoma?”
“Well back in ’02 I got shot right here, and it was a Glock.”
#20 Skin Allergies Make Folks Panic
I have had an unbelievable amount of patients who think they have Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (thanks WebMD) when they, in fact, have contact dermatitis from new lotion or laundry soap.
I also advise not looking up that condition.
Edit: if you have recently started lamotrigine, carbamazepine, Bactrim, or allopurinol and develop a rash, definitely call your doctor. It may actually be SJS.
#21 A Lucky Break
I’m not a doctor, but I am a medical professional at a hospital. The 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.
#22 They Just Washed It Away
I was rushed to the ER 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 pillowcase I just got on my pillow. Washcloth later, I was all better.
#23 Not Quite Appendicitis
Not a doctor, I was the patient.
Got incredibly drunk one night and decided to finish off the night with an amazing Taco Bell feast. Woke up the next morning with an incredibly bad stomach ache. This continued for about three days, and I was constipated the whole time.
My roommates (all pre-med or nursing) thought it was just the Taco Bell causing some issues but on about day four, I couldn’t take it anymore and had one of them drive me to the hospital (he continued to call me a nasty name and said they are just going to tell me to take laxatives).
While at the hospital, they noticed my appendix was incredibly swollen and about to burst and was rushed into surgery. On my way to surgery a doctor came running and screaming to stop, and he showed the X-Ray to the surgeon, and they decided it wasn’t the appendix that was the problem but my intestine.
Somehow my colon folded into itself like a sock and caused incredible swelling and build up. Ended up going on antibiotics and morphine for a couple of days and got to miss all my exams (other than anatomy, that fool made me take a longer, more difficult, and extended response-only exam).
I have no idea how this happened and the doctors tried explaining the possibilities, but I was too messed up on morphine to understand. I remember them asking me if I recently went to Haiti or the DR. About three years later I started to have similar pain and went to the doctor immediately, and this time they just took my appendix out.”
#24 The Warning Signs Were Blowing In The Wind
Saw a patient last night who had been having episodes of “wind” for six 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 back when you see it.
#25 No Really, I Am A Doctor
Physician assistant that works in the emergency department here. Had a woman, around 45 years old, come in with her mother for a complaint of a spider bite to her back. It was actually an abscess. No big deal, that’s pretty common. People think abscesses are spider bites all the time.
I incised and drained it and sent her home on antibiotics (pretty standard procedure). Told her to come back in two days for a recheck. When she came back it was looking better she 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.
She and her mother came back again another two 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 apparently a healing abscess and was looking a lot better. Looked nothing like gangrene (which they had googled).
Had to get two of my colleagues to come in the room to reassure them but they still didn’t believe us. Think they ended up going to another hospital.”
#26 Jesus Heals All
I recently had a patient who claimed that he used to have diabetes, but Jesus cured him of it. His glucose was nearly 300 on admission and he was in the hospital for an amputation of a gangrenous toe that didn’t heal because of said diabetes. I’ll never forget the doctor’s note that said “patient had a history of diabetes but states Jesus healed him of that, but since his blood glucose was 289 on admission we will treat him as if he were a diabetic.”
A morbidly obese lady terrified she had a lump in her breast and demanded to be examined immediately.
It was her rib.
#28 A Sad Ending
We had a patient come in because he was having back pain. He figured he lifted something wrong working on his truck and the pain was just not going away on its own like it normally would. It turns out he had spinal cancer. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after.
#29 Do What You Must
Physiotherapist here. I had someone come in with shoulder pain, and said they tore their labia. I think they meant labrum, but since they just came in to buy some exercise bands and weren’t interested in an assessment, I didn’t bother correcting them.
#30 How Did You Make That Mistake?
Thought I had a tapeworm once. I saw what looked like a foot long worm in my stool, decided to drive to the hospital first thing in the morning.
That night I brushed my teeth, flossed, then dropped my dental floss into the toilet as I usually do before realizing I was panicking over a piece of string.
#31 Today I Learned
Not a doctor, but a patient. I came in one day with massive pain in my side, thinking it could be a kidney stone. After a CAT scan, I was told it wasn’t a kidney stone because I didn’t have one on that side.
It turned out that I actually had a tiny tear in my intestine. The pain was my body trying to seal the hole.
I was 22 when I learned I only had one kidney. Apparently some people go their whole lives without knowing.
#32 Clean Them Once In A While
I thought I had an ear infection, it turned out to just be a glob of ear wax sitting on my ear drum and causing all the discomfort, hearing loss, and pressure.
#33 Mom Always Knows?
I was in high school, walking to class when I got a sudden sharp pain in my foot. I was running late and didn’t have time to deal with it right then, but I only really felt it while I was walking; it faded quickly when I was still, and even then it was minor enough that I figured it would go away on its own. After a couple of weeks of dealing with it, I mentioned it to my mom, who thought it might be gout. (I was a really lazy kid, so it was a definite possibility.) We go to the doctor and he does an x-ray and it turns out I broke one of the bones in the ball of my foot.
In short, I broke my foot and tried to walk it off for two weeks.
#34 Why Would She Be Pregnant
I get a call to go to high school as my niece, she lived with us, is having trouble breathing. She had just finished a cross country training session when she started having trouble. I get there and she appears to be having asthma attack. Ambulance gets there and the EMT’s ask me a few questions as she is not able to talk. They tell me she’s pregnant and having an anxiety attack. I tell them she’s not pregnant as he was complaining the week before about her period. They ignore what I’m telling them and I follow to the hospital. Before she even sees a Doctor they do a pregnancy test and it comes back negative. So now the doctor walks in and wants to know why I thought she might be pregnant. I explained what I had told the EMT’ s and how they ignored me. It turned out she had an exercise induced asthma attack.
This 20-something year old woman was pregnant with twins having constipation and abdominal pain. She thought it was related to pregnancy; it actually colorectal cancer.
#36 A Second Opinion Sometimes Helps A Lot
A doctor told the mother of a friend of mine when he was a kid, about 10 years old: “he’s just a bit under the weather, go home, get some rest, take paracetamol”.
She came back next day saying something was really wrong with him. Got told the same thing.
Day three, she came back saying something is really wrong with him, got angrily told: “you’re an overprotective mother, take him home, there’s nothing wrong with him”.
Day four, went back, that doctor was away. Talked to different doctor, he instantly got him admitted to hospital. With pneumonia and a collapsed lung.