Friday, September 16, 2011

Stalking the Enemy

WebMD is not my friend. Not today. Not ever. Sure, I can appreciate the site for the incredibly valuable resources it offers for self-diagnosis. I absolutely respect its founders for developing tools such as the symptom checker that will offer you several diagnoses based on your gender, age and symptoms. In theory, WebMD is incredible.

The problem arises when you have people like me use the tool. WebMD was not designed for over-analyzers. It was certainly not designed for anyone with a type A personality. And it is exceptionally dangerous in the hands of a hypochondriac.

Let me illustrate this briefly. Recently, I’ve been feeling pretty lousy. Nothing too extreme, just an overall tired feeling, accompanied by a constant feeling of dehydration. It’s been going on for about a month now, and as a dancer, I need to be in the best shape I can possibly be.  So, I decided to check out good old WebMD for some possible solutions to the issue.

I entered my main symptoms, fatigue, minor muscle weakness, blurry eyes, dehydration. Out popped twenty-something syndromes I could possibly have, some with names I could barely pronounce, and there the cycle began.

Here’s just a couple of the possible diagnoses I was given:

Lack of Exercise – Um hi, no. I’m a dancer. That’s not a problem.

Heat Exhaustion


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome



Emphysema - I didn't say anything about my lungs, guys.

Multiple Sclerosis - Really??

Rheumatoid Arthritis


Heart Rhythm Disorder

Mononucleosis - I've had mono before, this is not even close to mono. Mono is awful!

And my favorite,

Pseudohypoparathyroidism – Are you kidding me, WebMD? Not so much. If you’re curious, this is a hereditary disorder that affects bone growth, face shape, mental development, and produces other auxiliary symptoms. How did we get there from fatigue and dehydration?

Gosh, even though I look at some of these and think that there is absolutely no way that this is the cause for my symptoms, there is still this open door in the back of my mind. A door that would have been firmly shut if it weren’t for WebMD.  I researched the conditions for at least an hour, trying to determine what’s causing these issues for me, looking at conditions I didn’t even know existed prior to last night. But here I am, thinking I may be anemic, or heavily considering the idea that it is my lack of calcium that is wearing me down.

What if I do have rheumatoid arthritis? My joints do hurt from time to time. And even though I’m in my twenties, maybe its early onset? Who knows?

I’ve decided to leave it alone. I’m going to drink water like it's disappearing tomorrow. I am going to take multi-vitamins in case I’m missing something (plus, if I really am anemic, that should take care of it.)

And, next time I get the brilliant idea to diagnose myself, I’m going to remember that I went to school for communication, not for medicine. I didn’t take the exams and study all of the books to be able to interpret clearly what’s going on. So, I should probably leave it to a real doctor.

Have you ever used WebMD? How did self-diagnosis work for you?

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