Top 10 Questions for ‘Dr. Google’ Answered

According to the top health-related searches on Google, people were most curious about the keto diet, ALS and endometriosis in 2018.

That’s just a few of the millions of searches that Internet users asked “Dr. Google” — the name given the dominant search engine as more Americans seek answers to questions they should be asking their doctor. About 1 percent of all searches on Google — representing tens of millions of inquiries a day — are symptom-related.

Findings from a study released last year coined a term for self-inflicted anxiety from relying too much on ‘Dr. Google.’ The new term: Cyberchondria. It’s a hybrid term that combines “cyberspace” with hypochondria, which refers to people who are abnormally anxious about their health.

“Most of the information online is not complete, and relying too much on this information is what drives cyberchondria,” said David Mishkin, M.D., medical director for Baptist Health’s Care On Demand, a platform that provides patients with immediate online access to a Board-certified doctor via an app. “That is why I always encourage patients to consult with a physician first before making an incorrect self-diagnosis that can only lead to unwarranted anxiety and stress.”

Here are the top health-related questions submitted to Google over the past year (with the proper answers):

1. What is the keto diet?
Google says this was the top trending health-related question of 2018 from people seeking information on the ketogenic, or keto, diet. Keto refers to ketogenic or ketosis, a metabolic state in which stored fat is broken down to produce energy. Studies have shown that keto diets can produce short-term weight loss. However, a true ketogenic diet, which is high in fatty foods, should be medically supervised and comes with potentially serious risks for some people, including those with high cholesterol, diabetes or pre-diabetes or other underlying conditions. Learn more.

2. What is ALS disease?
The death of Stephen Hawking, the world-famous physicist, in March may have fueled interest in this neuro-degenerative disorder, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is rare, with slightly more than 5,000 Americans diagnosed each year, according to the ALS Association. It is a progressive disease that attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary movement. No one knows for sure what causes ALS and currently there is no cure. Mr. Hawking, who was born in Oxford, England in 1942, was a 21-year-old Ph.D. student when he was diagnosed with ALS.

3. What is endometriosis?
An often painful disorder, endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally lines the uterus and is shed during menstrual cycles stays behind and continues to build up. The leftover blood can develop into a ball of cells, or cysts, sometimes referred to as endometriomas. The body’s way of eliminating the old blood and multiplying cells can cause them to spill out of the reproductive organs and travel to areas outside the confines of the uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs. Learn more.

4. How long does weed stay in your urine?
More U.S. states legalized the medical and recreational use of marijuana in 2018, which helped propel this question to No. 4 among Google’s top searches. There is no standard answer on how long the drug is detectable in urine since it varies according to dose and individuals. Consult your healthcare professional regarding this issue.

5. How long does the flu last?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults typically develop flu symptoms one to four days after becoming infected with the influenza virus. Most people get better after about three to seven days, though some symptoms like coughing and fatigue can persist for two weeks or more. Overall, the recovery-time range for most people is a few days to less than two weeks.

6. How long is the flu contagious?
The flu is at its most contagious state in the first three to four days of the illness, according to the CDC. However, there are exceptions. Healthy adults may be contagious 24 hours before they start showing symptoms. Children, seniors and people with weak immune systems may be able to spread the flu virus for longer than four days — up to a week.

7. When does implantation bleeding occur?
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant may be searching for an answer to this question. Implantation bleeding — typically defined as a small amount of light spotting or bleeding after conception — usually occurs between 6 and 12 days after conception. That’s when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. Some women mistake it for their regular period because it can look similar and occur near the time you’d expect your normal cycle. Consult your obstetrician-gynecologist for more information.

8. Why am I always tired?
There is no easy answer for this question, which is becoming more frequent as Americans get less sleep — less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours a day. Electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, keep us up later and other poor health habits, such as lack of exercise and too many sweets, are factors contributing to feeling tired most of the time, according sleep experts. But lack of sleep is not always the reason for feeling tired. Fatigue can be a symptom of other underlying health issues. Consult with your physician. Learn more about improving sleep habits.

9. What does heartburn feel like?
Heartburn, which is when acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus, is one of the most common conditions experienced by most everyone at some point in their lives. The most common sign of heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest, usually behind the breastbone. Heartburn can occur after eating too much, or after eating certain foods, and lasts anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Heartburn is just one symptom of acid reflux, which can also include excessive saliva. If you suffer from chronic heartburn, consult your doctor. Learn more.

10. What causes high blood pressure?
Nearly half of U.S. adults may have high blood pressure, or hypertension, but many of them don’t know it. One of biggest myths is that high blood pressure is a disease that mostly strikes people over the age of 60. An obesity epidemic across the U.S. has helped thoroughly bust that myth. Risk factors for high blood pressure usually fall into two categories, hereditary and modifiable. Hereditary causes can include a family history of hypertension, as well as age, gender, race and chronic kidney disease. But there are many modifiable risk factors that can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices, including lack of physical activity, unhealthy diets, being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and chronic stress. Learn more.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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