Why Wikipedia Should Not Replace A Doctor

It’s Saturday and I’m in an in-between mood.  How about a game of “Guess the Illness?” Here are  the symptoms.

  • Overwhelming nausea to the point of interrupting sleep
  • Debilitating fatigue; perhaps related to the nausea
  • Powerful and incapacitating headaches
  • Unfortunate bloating*

Does this list sound familiar?  Akin to, say, pregnancy?

Well, guess what — I have had these symptoms for several weeks now but I am not pregnant.

How cool is that?

Ha hah hahahahahaha

Not really.

Anyway, thinking these symptoms might be related to cysts (that happen to behind that annoying pain I still have) on my ovaries, I looked it up on Wikipedia.

It turns it out I could possibly be right.


I went to the doctor’s, for an unrelated appointment, about a week ago.  My doctor, Sue, asked about my cysts, and if the treatment was going well.  I unloaded all that I had been feeling.  She looked at me with an odd expression; naturally I went on.

“Um, yeah, it’s pretty bad.  The nausea keeps me up at night, inhibits me from eating, and makes me feel weak. The fatigue is debilitating; if I don’t take a nap during the day I can’t function.  The headaches just suck.  But Ben and I researched on Wikipedia and it says all this is pretty normal with the cysts.”

She stared at me.

“Well…maybe Wikipedia shouldn’t replace a doctor’s…”

“No, it shouldn’t.  I think you might have an ulcer.”

“Oh.  Really?  Well…that’s, uh, great.  At least it’s treatable, right?!”

To keep this story short, we went through the rest of the appointment, I had my blood taken and she said she would be in touch a few days.  A few days came, she called, and the tests were negative.

“Don’t worry,” she advised, “I am going to research this and figure out what the deal is.  I’ll call you soon.”

It’s been a week and still no news.


When the pain started shortly after the miscarriage, and I knew it wouldn’t be going away soon, I went through the stages of grief.  It was hard, but I learned to live in my new normal, painful, existence.  But, with the on-set of these new symptoms, I’ve had to re-enter the process.  Sadly, it has become cyclical: Denial, anger, bargaining, sadness (since I already suffer with depression), acceptance, and back to the beginning.  I can’t seem to find my way out of the circle.

It effects so many areas of my life–reading, writing, blogging, and, especially, wifing (i.e. being a wife) and mothering.


I don’t publish these things to garner sympathy.  I describe this illness, or whatever you want to call it, merely to explain my absence for periods of time from this space and from your blogs.  And also to provide a background for future posts, that I may write, of what I have learned from this whole experience.  Plus, to be completely frank, sometimes I just need to complain without feeling pressured to be grateful or perfect or whatever.  There you have it.

As I don’t have an optimistic ending to this post, I do want to relate a silly lesson I learned.  As much as I adore Wikipedia, it should be used as a starting point for symptoms, not to replace a healthcare provide.  Even if said healthcare provider doesn’t have answers, at least they are in your, proverbial, corner.  Because, honestly, I am sure thousands of misdiagnoses have come from searching the web.  Even if your intentions are pure.

*Please say you laughed when you read that.  I put it in not to gross you out, but to illicit a smile.  What can I say, I love sarcasm.

Image provided by freeimages.com.



Filed under Chronic Stuff

31 responses to “Why Wikipedia Should Not Replace A Doctor

  1. Blech. Just belch! Heal, my friend.

  2. Carisa Brown

    "Well I looked on Google and it said…" – This is a phrase I hear multiple times a day working in a doctor's office. While there is a lot of great information and answers out there, the internet isn't tailored just for you. So anything you learn on there (if it's even reliable) isn't going to be based off any of your specific symptoms. Nothing drives the doctors I work for more crazy than a patient coming in and self diagnosing themselves.

    But it sounds like your doctor is determined to figure out what is making you feel so miserable. I hope the answer is found soon so you can begin treatment. Don't feel bad or guilty for not being optimistic all the time. Sometimes you need to be a realist and come to terms that not everything in life is rainbows and butterflies!

    • admin

      Sometimes I think I sway too far towards realism.

      I have a great doctor, and between her and me we will be able to figure out something. I think.

  3. Oh Amber. I am so sorry you are going through this. It sucks. Period. Enough already! And all that said, we're happy to be here for you whenever and in whatever mood suits, or unsuits, as the case may be.

    I hope you get some answers soon. And meanwhile, it sucks.

  4. Jenna

    I agree that a lot of misdiagnoses can come from using the Internet as a source, which is why you should also ask your doctor. Because sometimes, doctors can't figure it out, but a proactive patient can simply by searching the Internet! I've seen it happen before where the doctors can't figure out what's wrong, a little research on the Internet is done, the patient returns with information and the doctor can use that to check other things they may not have thought of. Often that is how rare illnesses end up being found and treated. Although, I tend to trust sites like the Mayo Clinic more than Wikipedia. Hope you get to feeling better soon and figure it all out.

    • admin

      The nice thing is, she looked into those rare illnesses (or, as she put it, "big stuff") and knows I don't have any of that. Just an irritating case of nausea that keeps her researching and me on the couch.

  5. I am glad you turn to this space to write through your feelings and share what's happening in your world — even when it's not pretty. As someone who's surrounded by people whose health never seems to stabilize, I understand the need to talk about it.

    As for that list of symptoms, I would have diagnosed myself with some third-world virus that doesn't even exist in central NC. That's why I refuse to self-diagnose anything! When I had the flu last week, my mother *almost* convinced me I had scarlet fever. You know, because it's 1877 over here!

    • admin

      Scarlet fever? Really? That is just hilarious.

      Yes, writing about health issues does feel relieving. Hey, it's something thats constantly on my mind (and keeps me on my butt) so I need to talk about it with someone other than Ben.

  6. This is so frustrating, I'm sure. Thinking of you and hoping for quick answers.

    • admin

      Thank you, Tiffany. It is frustrating but I feel very blessed to have such an awesome health care provider. (Incidentally, she's a nurse practitioner so I can't call her my doctor, officially, but she takes care of our whole family.)

  7. I did laugh at Unfortunate Bloating, but it was also laced with sympathy. It does sound like a cyst issue, so I don't blame you for trusting in Wikipedia this time! I hope you are on your way to a resolution–it's maddening when everyone just shrugs their shoulders. Take care of yourself.

    • admin

      Kitch–that's what I thought. My thinking was this, since I am already on cyst medication that takes three months to see any results, I might as well wait three months and see if anything changes. But, I guess I was wrong. Relieving and frustrating at the same time.

  8. Man, that really sucks. With my stomach hernia, I get severe nausea, but can't throw up, and no baby. It's awesome!

  9. Sorry to hear, Amber. I hope you get answers soon and start feeling better! xo

    • admin

      Thank you, Shannon. I do, too. (So glad to see your face again! I hope that means you are back to blogging!)

  10. I love how open and straight-forward you are, Amber. I think you do a real service to other people by being honest and matter-of-fact about your situation, especially discussing depression – an illness so many people suffer from in isolation. And I too have fallen prey to internet diagnoses. I was terrible when I was pregnant. Since I rarely slept, I stayed up at night and researched EVERY SINGLE SYMPTOM until I found the worst possible case scenario…which was never actually the case.

    • admin

      Thanks, Peryl. I think pregnancy is the worst time to symptom search. Every possible thing that can go wrong often has symptoms that mirror regular pregnancy things. Not so cool for a high strung pregnant woman (like me).

  11. Just another possible diagnosis to throw in the mix: My brother has had all of those symptoms (the nausea even leads to severe vomiting) and the culprit is: elevated anxiety. He doesn't have ovaries, though, so if the cyst thing doesn't pan out, you might want to look into anxiety.

    Hope you feel better soon.

    • admin

      Thank you for this, Steph! Ironically, before I even saw this comment, I had already set up an appointment with my doctor for this exact reason. Anxiety and depression do weird things to people's bodies.

  12. At least your healthcare professional is going to follow up and try to figure it out. My issues seem to never resolve and the response I get is "that's just the way it is". Uh, okay.

    Seriously though – hope you get to the bottom of this and feel back to yourself soon.


    • admin

      You are right, Cathy, I am lucky with my current healthcare provider. (Incidentally, she is a nurse practitioner and treats our whole family.) I am sorry that your issues aren't resolved and are casually ignored. That is so hard.

      Thank you for your support. I do appreciate it!

  13. I hope that your on your way to some answers Amber. It certainly sucks being in the process of things. Sometimes I just want the shortcut to the answer. Sending positive vibes your way. xoxo

    • admin

      Thank you, Rebecca! Amazingly, I feel better (emotionally) after putting these words on this page. Words do have healing powers!

  14. When I go online for a diagnosis, I always have cancer. Until my doctor examines me and talks me down from the ledge, so to speak. It's great fun. But it's also a cycle: feel bad, become convinced I have cancer, see doctor, feel relief, feel bad again, become convinced … So I can really empathize with the cycle you're caught in. I wish you answers and relief soon!

    • admin

      Luckily, my doctor reassured me several times that I do not have a major illness. I'm actually feeling more positive in finding an answer based on some other symptoms I've been having lately. Relief should be on it's way!

  15. Oi, you poor girl! That's a lot to have on your plate, and you are so right that Wikipedia is no replacement for a healthcare provider. BUT, educating yourself is always a good thing, yes? Way to be proactive about your own health!

    • admin

      Ben and I both tend to avoid going to the doctors because we don't want to be bothersome. I suppose that's why we accepted Wikipedia's answer in the first place! Still, I am glad my nurse practitioner is awesome enough to help me be proactive.