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About 1 out of every 25,000 people in the world will develop Huntington disease. That means 24,999 out of every 25,000 people will not.

The Baylisascaris procyonis parasite is found in 70 to 90 percent of raccoons in North America. It has infected 22 people in Canada and the United States, or approximately 1 in every 15,000,000 people. That means appoximately 14,999,999 out of 15,000,000 people do not catch the parasite.

About 1 out of every 30,000,000 people in the world will develop Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. That means 29,999,999 people out of every 30,000,000 will not.

Nearly 100 percent of the world's human population has been infected with human herpes virus 6, also known as HHV-6. Of the seven billion people who have been infected with the disease, to which the body becomes immune after just being infected once, eight have died. All eight of these victims also had AIDS. If you do not have AIDS, you will not die of HHV-6. And even if you do have AIDS, your chances of not dying of HHV-6 infection are approximately 5,000,000 to 1.

What are the chances that one person has Huntington disease and Baylisascaris procyonis infection and Creuztfeld-Jakob disease and a fatal HHV-6 infection? They are approximately 25,000 times 15,000,000 times 30,000,000 times 5,000,000 or 5,625,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that's 5.625 heptillion) to 1. That's not very likely.

There is a real danger to seeing Dr. Google with rare symptoms. You can become so invested in having a rare, horrible, deadly disease you don't have that you fail to get timely treatment for the common, not-so-bad, survivable disease you do have.

It's horrible mistake to go into your doctor's office and announce "I have decided that I have XYZ and I want you to prescribe 87 mg of medicine ABC taken QID." Your Google search does not equal your physician's medical license. It's fine to learn more about your disease, as long as an actual doctor has diagnosed it first. Google doesn't diagnose diseases. Doctors do.

It's also a horrible mistake for doctors to assume they are always right and patients don't know anything. After you have been to see your doctor, and the doctor's recommendations aren't doing you any good, then it makes sense to look for other possibilities. Even when you find new information on the Internet, however, you still need a doctor to do the actual diagnosing.

There's nothing wrong with using the Internet to become a smarter patient. It's great to learn about how new medications work from people who actually use them. It's good just to let a doctor offer personal experiences without offering a diagnosis or treatment recommendation in your particular case. It can be lifesaving to locate clinical trials for tests of the drugs that might just work for you (although you would have to be in the treatment group, not the placebo group, to benefit).

Good medicine depends on knowledge. Over the last 20 years, the flow of medical knowledge has fundamentally changed. Healthcare used to be a closed system. Now it's an open network. Knowledge used to flow only from doctors to patients. Now knowledge also flows from patients to doctors. Patient questions and patient answers enrich the institution of medicine through forums like SteadyHealth and many other locations on the Internet.

Just don't get bogged down with all the details of horrible diseases you don't have. Start your treatment with an actual doctor, not an Internet search. Do your very best to use all the diagnostic information and treatment advice your doctor can give you. Let simple interventions work. Only when they don't work is it time to look for the rare and difficult treat. Embrace positive and productive alternatives whenever possible. Medicine is hard. Work together with your doctor.

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