Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 23, 2024 ·  4 min read

Everyone Says Don’t Google For Medical Advice. She Did Anyway, And It Might Have Saved Her Vision.

When you feel an odd ache or pain or any sort of strange symptoms of illness, what’s the first thing you do? In today’s day and age, likely many of you do a quick Google search of your symptoms to try and get an idea of what might be going on in your body. The thing is, sometimes yes, Dr. Google can be useful, like for example this woman who successfully used Google to help her get answers to some scary symptoms she was experiencing. In many cases, however, Dr. Google can do more harm than good.

Woman Uses Dr. Google To Finally Get The Answers She Needed

Alexandra Niforos was going about her life normally when one day in mid-July in 2021, she first felt a strange pain in her head. This headache continued to grow over the next days and then weeks, not going away and not to be subdued by any amount of pain relievers. Having suffered from anxiety for a long time, she thought that she was better off not consulting Dr. Google and instead visit an actual physician to discuss her symptoms. By the next week for her appointment, her symptoms had worsened. She was hearing a whooshing sound in her ears and her vision was being affected. (1)

When she went to the doctor, noting her history with anxiety, coupled with the extreme amount of stress she’d been under recently because of work, among other things, they concluded that her symptoms were stress-induced. The doctor prescribed her with muscle relaxants to help her relax. She even went ahead and booked a massage to try and work out the tension she was carrying in her upper body. None of this helped, however, and her symptoms only kept getting worse.

Finally one day while driving, her vision began tunneling so badly that she was struggling to see anything that wasn’t in her peripheral vision. Terrified, she went back to the doctor. They booked her an MRI appointment, but she couldn’t get in for another two weeks. Feeling frustrated and desperate for answers, she finally turned to Dr. Google.

Potentially Saved By Dr. Google

She spent a night searching for answers and reading article after article looking for a match for her symptoms. She finally found one that she checked all the boxes for.

“I fell into a black hole of frantic symptom-searching and read article after article. I only resurfaced when I discovered a Mayo Clinic page titled “Pseudotumor cerebri (idiopathic intracranial hypertension).” It explained a rare condition in which pressure increases in the head due to the inability to drain cerebrospinal fluid, which mimics the symptoms of a brain tumor.”

The article didn’t give much indication to causes, aside from the use of certain medications. She googled examples of the kind of medication the article mentioned, and bingo – she found the cause. A medication that her dermatologist prescribed her to treat her acne, doxycycline, was one that fell in that category. One of her parents’ friends, who is an ophthalmologist, agreed with her self-diagnosis. She called her dermatologist who suggested that she stop the medication immediately.

In the end, she was able to get into the emergency clinic, who gave her the counter medications necessary to stop her symptoms from progressing and help bring her back to good health. It was a long road, however, now her vision is nearly 100% back to normal. In this case, it ended up being a good thing that she googled her symptoms. Otherwise, things may have taken too long and could have turned out far worse.

Should You Consult Dr. Google?

The COVID19 pandemic drastically changed the way we seek out and receive health care. We saw the rise of online health care and telehealth. The instance of people simply googling their symptoms and trying to figure it out themselves also rose. While Google can offer plenty of valuable information and doctors are humans who can sometimes make errors, there is a danger to relying on this more than a trained medical professional. (2)

In most cases, searching for a diagnosis online simply results in undue stress and terror. Other times, however, it can actually impede your ability to get the help you need. Doctors say that they are seeing increased cases of people not seeking medical attention because they think they know what they have and, worse, they googled how to solve it on their own at home. Other times, patients come in so convinced that they self-diagnosed correctly that they refuse to listen to medical advice or that they might not be right. In these cases, conditions go unchecked and can become highly dangerous, even fatal.

The Bottom Line

We are not saying to not do any of your own research. This can be helpful in understanding your condition and/or symptoms and help you articulate your concerns to your doctor better. Also, if you feel as though you are not being listened to or taken seriously, you can use this to help you speak up more. Finally, if you are concerned that you are not receiving the answers and help you need, get a second, third, or even fourth opinion – not from the internet, but from other doctors. After all, doctors are only human, and sometimes you need multiple perspectives and expertise before you find the right conclusion.


  1. Everyone Says Don’t Google For Medical Advice. I Did Anyway, And It Might Have Saved My Vision..” Huffpost. Alexandra Niforos.
  2. The rise of ‘Dr. Google’: The risks of self-diagnosis and searching symptoms online.” The Conversation. Taleen Lara Ashekian.