Google aims to stop terrifying you when you search medical symptoms

By Ariana Eunjung Cha

We've all jumped on Google with our symptoms to be told we may have an underlying disease. Photo / iStock
We've all jumped on Google with our symptoms to be told we may have an underlying disease. Photo / iStock

Even if you're not a hypochondriac by nature, jumping on Google to do some research when you have a mysterious headache or cough has been enough to make you one. For years both patients and doctors have complained about how hard it is to distinguish between real advice and the random ramblings of a complete quack.

Google has finally come up with a solution. On Monday, the company unveiled symptom search, a new feature that offers you legitimate information curated by Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic experts. This includes basic information about common health problems related to your symptoms and whether you can treat the issue at home by yourself or whether you should be calling for help. It only works in English right now and through the Google search app on iPhone and Android.

Here's a look at Google's new symptom search, which offers legitimate information curated by Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic experts. Photo / Screenshot
Here's a look at Google's new symptom search, which offers legitimate information curated by Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic experts. Photo / Screenshot

Take a look at the (very mundane) common causes listed by symptom search vs.

some of the (pretty terrifying) responses you get by typing in how you're feeling the old fashioned way directly into the Google search box:

"Stomach hurts"

Regular search: "[R]eally, any organ in your abdomen (there are many) could be to blame." "Diverticulitis is an inflammation of 'diverticula' or pockets that form in the lining of the intestine, usually the colon. . . . 'These look like punched-out holes in the lining of the colon that tend to get inflamed or obstructed with stool or other foreign material.' "

Symptom search: "Constipation, gas, overeating, stress, or muscle strain."

"Blurry vision one eye"

Regular search: "Losing vision in one eye may be an early symptom of a stroke. 'Vision loss, especially in one eye, could be a sign that the carotid artery, which is a major supplier of blood to the eyes, is blocked.' " "The sudden onset of flashing lights, a noticeable increase in the amount of floaters, a shadow in your peripheral vision, or a gray curtain moving across your field of vision could be signs of a detachment of the retina - the nerve layer in the back of the eye that sends images to the brain."

Symptom search: "Eye rubbing, dry eyes, crying, aging, or bad eyeglass prescription."

"Itchy skin"

Regular search: "The possible causes for itchiness range from internal illnesses, such as kidney or liver disease, to skin rashes." "Strep throat is another common trigger of psoriasis."

Symptom search: "Hair regrowth, sunburns, insect bites, dry skin, or healing wounds."

- Washington Post

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