Type just about any medical symptom you're experiencing into your browser of choice and you'll find a wealth of potential causes, cures and complications, ranging from the mundane to the catastrophic.
But calling your doctor because you suspect a brain tumor or stroke every time you have a headache only fuels more anxiety, uses up your precious time and, frankly, annoys the heck out of your doctor. After all, he or she didn't go through years of education and training so you could just diagnose yourself on the Internet.
"[I]nformation is not knowledge or understanding, both of which require objectivity, balance, the view from altitude and interpretation," David L. Katz, M.D., MPH, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, tells HuffPost Healthy Living via email. "Our culture routinely equates information access with understanding, and that is a very costly mistake in health care."
Of course, self-diagnosis isn't the only thing that gets under doctors' skin. To help preserve the sanity of the people in charge of our care, we asked Katz and other well-known docs to share a few of their biggest patient pet peeves. Here are some we could all benefit from giving up.
"The tendency to think that 45 minutes surfing the Internet is commensurate with years and years of full-time training. That is a growing tendency now that everyone has access to all information all the time. But information is not knowledge or understanding, both of which require objectivity, balance, the view from altitude and interpretation. Our culture routinely equates information access with understanding, and that is a very costly mistake in health care. A lot of time and energy is devoted these days into talking patients 'out of love' with misinformation."
"There is a disturbing, yet growing, trend of people rejecting vaccinations for themselves and their children. The science on this is quite clear: The vaccines we recommend for routine use in children and adults are extremely safe. They also save lives. Since we have seen a reduction in vaccination, we have seen a concomitant increase in vaccine-preventable disease in the United States. These are diseases, such as measles, which can cause severe illness in children, including death. Vaccines have become a victim of their own success, because they were so successful at preventing these infections over the last several decades that we no longer have the community memory of the kind of devastation these illnesses can have as well as the dramatic impact vaccines had in stopping these diseases."
--Pritish Tosh, M.D., Mayo Clinic Infectious Diseases physician and researcher
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"Some patients come to the doctor with an acute infection expecting to get a prescription for an antibiotic. Many times, such as for viral infections or other infections that will usually resolve on their own, antibiotics are not helpful in getting people to feel better or get better faster. On the other hand, the overuse of antibiotics has clearly contributed to the problem we are having globally with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to the point we are at now where we even see infections for which there are no antibiotics available that would be predicted to treat the infection. This is not just a societal issue, antibiotics also affect the individual they are prescribed to, in that receipt of antibiotics is associated with infections with antibiotic-resistant organisms in patients."
"The truth is, it's not about the quantity of calories, it's about the quality of the calories."
--Frank Lipman, M.D., HuffPost blogger
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"What gets me more than everything is the desire for the 'quick fix.' Many patients think that a pill or a fad diet will change everything, and that they have stumbled upon 'the solution.' These same patients are remarkably smart and use critical judgement for other life decisions, but in health, that critical judgement many times seems suspended! The data are clear that lifestyle changes, including food and exercise, work -- don't avoid them!! Instead, avoid the vitamins and supplements and quick fixes that have no data behind them."
--David B. Agus, M.D., professor of medicine and engineering and director of the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine and the USC Westside Cancer Center, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and Viterbi School of Engineering
"I would have people drop their fear of fat and focus on low fat as a strategy for weight loss. There is no evidence that fat makes you fat or causes heart disease, except trans fat."
--Mark Hyman, M.D.
, founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, HuffPost medical review board member
"The one habit I wish people [would] stop usually occurs during vacation time. They usually call to say they don't feel well 24 to 48 before they are scheduled to leave town. In my case, they usually say they have chest pain, shortness of breath [or] high or low blood pressure. They usually say they must come in at a specific day or time because they are leaving and have so many last-minute things to do. When I ask when the symptoms started, the usual reply is four to seven days before the phone call.
I wish my patient would understand that I don't have a magic wand, and we sometimes need to do tests to figure out what is going on. Please call as soon as you don't feel well, and on the rare [occasion] I need to recommend postponing the departure, please understand it is for your health.
Please prioritize your health for a happy and healthy vacation."
--Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health, NYU, Langone Medical Center
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"This is by far the worst. [Smoking] doesn't just affect the lungs, it affects everything about a person's health. Some people may try to increase their exercise or eat a lower calorie diet, yet continue to smoke thinking that these things offset each other. There is really no combination of diet or exercise that can overcome the negative health impacts of smoking."
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"I'd like to see people stop demonizing whole categories of macronutrients or foods: fats, carbs, sugar, grains, etc. There are gradations of "good" and "bad" in all of them, and it's wiser to learn the differences. For example: Grains are not bad for health in whole or cracked form, but when milled and refined into flour, they can cause problems."
--Andrew Weil, M.D., founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center and HuffPost blogger