Name a scary sounding but harmless disease or condition
September 4, 2019 9:09 AM   Subscribe

What is a disease or condition that sounds scary, but is ultimately harmless or relatively non threatening? For example, if you went to the doctor and he said you had ___________ (scary sounding), but then he explains it is just ______________ (harmless).

One possibility is Onychophagia (chronic nail biting), but I'd prefer something that is more a disease than a psychological condition.
posted by roaring beast to Science & Nature (66 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
acute viral rhinopharyngitis = common cold
posted by jacquilynne at 9:11 AM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


In this scene from Star Trek IV Dr. McCoy states that a patient has immediate postprandial upper abdominal distension (cramps).
posted by lharmon at 9:21 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Both I and my son have congenital esotropia (crossed eyes).

I think most common things stated with the medical terminology sound scary just because we're sort of primed to view those latin root names as complicated and serious.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:21 AM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Protanomaly, Protanopia, Deuteranomaly, Deuteranopia, Tritanomaly, and Tritanopia (scary sounding?) are all types of color blindness (not really scary).
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 9:23 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Bowed legs seems to be the most mild medical condition- no real life impacts - it's called congenital genu varum I think.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:24 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


My ENT diagnosed me with "chronic non-allergic rhinitis" - i.e. my nose runs more than usual for no reason.
posted by brainmouse at 9:26 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Chronic idiopathic urticaria - hives but we dunno why.
posted by wellred at 9:26 AM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


singultus is the scientific word for hiccups.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:26 AM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


I have atrial fibrulation, which sounds... worrying. It's an irregular heartbeat and it can be serious but for many people, you take a daily med of some description and that's it, it's controlled and you are good to go.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:30 AM on September 4, 2019


I have femoroacetabular impingement syndrome*, which is fairly sucky but not something that is ever going to kill me.

*bone spurs and arthritis in hip joints
posted by supermedusa at 9:38 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Borborygmus: "a rumbling or gurgling noise made by the movement of fluid and gas in the intestines."
posted by baseballpajamas at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Bruxism - Grinding your teeth. (not totally harmless in all cases)
posted by achrise at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Dermatophytosis, or ringworm, is a fungal infection, and despite also being the name of a hardcore punk band, it's not that hardcore (usually).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:40 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


in the 80s, during the AIDS crisis, my little cousin was very ill and we brought her in to the hospital. the doctor helpfully informed us that she had "HIB."

it's not quite harmless, but ...
posted by zippy at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Several times a day I suffer from an externally induced myoclonic seizure. Specifically a random loud noise happens and every muscle in my body clenches. Colloquially people just say I'm jumpy.

I also deal with a drug side effect called orthostatic hypotension (I get dizzy when I stand up quickly)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:49 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Exploding Head Syndrome is a personal favorite in this genre.
posted by mhoye at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Someone quite close to me has mycosis fungoides, a type of T cell lymphoma. So: ominous, mushroom-sounding name, check! Cancer, terrifying, check!

However, we were told that usually it does not progress much beyond where it's first diagnosed (quoting resident at initial appt "it's basically a rash that never goes away, we're so sorry we have to call it cancer and freak you out.")

Apparently its scientific name sounds like a fungal infection because the doctor who first described it clinically thought that it was a fungal infection.

It's treated in a variety of ways, including mustargen, derived from yes, that's right, mustard gas.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 10:04 AM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


"exposed epidermis", which is your skin is showing.
posted by nickggully at 10:16 AM on September 4, 2019


term I learned here on MeFi: "post-prandial hypersomnia" aka, getting sleepy after a meal.
posted by epersonae at 10:23 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


My kid once was diagnosed with "toddler's diarrhea", which as far as I can tell means "she's pooping a lot and we don't know why".
posted by madcaptenor at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Occipital neuralgia. Basically headaches caused by neck tension. I have it and it sucks but it's not life threatening.
posted by starlybri at 10:32 AM on September 4, 2019


"post-gustatory rhinitis" - when your nose runs after eating something (or eating something spicy)
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:33 AM on September 4, 2019


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease sounded alarming to me, but in most cases is really less than a week of fever and some sores.

Also the four different kinds of food poisoning you can get from toxins in shellfish sound WAY scarier than they actually are in most cases:
Amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP)
Diarrheal shellfish poisoning (DSP)
Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP)
Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)
posted by rollick at 10:36 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have anisometropia, which means that I'm much more nearsighted in one eye than the other. I wouldn't say that it's totally harmless: it messes with my depth perception a bit, especially when I'm wearing glasses rather than contacts. But if someone said "I am sorry to tell you that you have anisometropia," I would think it was something much more alarming than what it is. (Also, I already knew that my my glasses prescription was much stronger in one eye than the other. I just didn't know that it had a name.)

There are a lot of benign skin tumors that are basically just bumps but that sound like they could be cancer: lipomas, fibromas, seborrheic keratoses and whatnot. I had a mole removed a while back, and when I googled the thing that it said on my medical record, I got that it was a tumor, which it was, because all moles are technically tumors. But it was still basically just a bump.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:39 AM on September 4, 2019


This reminds me of the time I learned our known universe was diagnosed with microwave anisotropy, which is to say an unevenness of the microwave cosmic background radiation. Prior to the COBE satellite in the '90s, our cosmic background had been given a clean bill of isotropic blackbody health, to the degree we could tell.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:49 AM on September 4, 2019


Synesthesia (perceiving one sense as affecting other senses) and Aphantasia (not having a functional visual 'minds eye')
posted by true at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2019


Giant papillary conjunctivitis
posted by kittydelsol at 11:00 AM on September 4, 2019


Hmm, I don't know if this qualifies but I'll give it a, er, shot: I was on a school choir trip and one of our, let's call them target cities was Roscommon, Michigan (that's pretty far away from about everything). Two days into the experience, some people (likely by unwisely eating whatever was offered during highway stops on our bus trip up north) got a mild case of the squirts (as my wife's grandpa, who was born in Tennessee 95 years ago, calls it), and the local doctor proclaimed that some in the group had "typhus-like symptoms", thus sending the few children-of-doctors that we had in our group into some pretty severe meltdowns, hectic red spots on their faces and all.
But you know, it was just: the squirts.
posted by Namlit at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease sounded alarming to me, but in most cases is really less than a week of fever and some sores.

I was going to bring up hand foot and mouth disease too, because in addition to an expansive name that evokes foot-and-mouth disease, it also looks terrifying. But it’s a virus (coxsackie) and it clears up in a week or so.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Alopecia: scrambled to look this up on someone's diagnosis from the doctor, only to laugh like crazy finding it. (Yr bald, dude.)
posted by effluvia at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2019


'parapraxis'- (the very short version) prone to Freudian slips
posted by JulesER at 11:17 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


dermatitis herpetiformis = gluten allergy rash
posted by iamkimiam at 11:19 AM on September 4, 2019


erythema solare = sunburn
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:28 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I had idiopathic omental infarction, which just meant that a tiiiiiiny bit of my fat got twisted on itself. It felt like a side stitch for about a week and then went away. Zero ill effects (beyond discomfort and major anxiety before it was diagnosed).
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:53 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


"post-gustatory rhinitis" - when your nose runs after eating something (or eating something spicy)


I'll see you that and raise you a "unilateral gustatory lachrymation." It's when you tear up in just one eye after eating. (It's also called "crocodile tears.") It's bizarre, infrequent and utterly harmless.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 11:54 AM on September 4, 2019


hand foot & mouth can make your finger- and toenails fall off depending on the variety, and, speaking as someone who caught it from her baby, it feels kind of awful (fever makes me feel like hammered shit.) it's not super serious though.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:03 PM on September 4, 2019


Benign familial macrocephaly: "You all just have giant heads."
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:06 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


anal glaucoma = "I just can't see my ass coming into work today" (a typically minor mental condition)
posted by exogenous at 12:10 PM on September 4, 2019


Angular chelitis or perleche sounds serious but it's just the inflamation of the corners of your mouth.
posted by cross_impact at 12:17 PM on September 4, 2019


Gilbert's syndrome
posted by mirileh at 12:28 PM on September 4, 2019


Keratosis pilaris means you have some benign, painless, non-itchy bumps on your skin.
posted by matrixclown at 12:41 PM on September 4, 2019


Situs inversus. All your internal organs are mirror-image from their usual place (e.g., your liver is on the left). May have an increased chance of some heart defects, but otherwise harmless, and usually discovered by surprise.
posted by argybarg at 12:47 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


My ex-father-in-law, a psychiatrist, used to diagnose family members with acute hypochondriasis.
posted by Floydd at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


^ only curable by taking a placebic acid supplement regularly?
posted by protorp at 1:04 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Prolactinoma: "a benign noncancerous tumour of the pituitary gland that produces a hormone called prolactin". Bonus scariness points if your doctor omits the words "benign" and "noncancerous" when defining it for you. Gah.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:13 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


ManyLeggedCreature's answer reminded me of one I have!

Enameloma: also called an enamel pearl, it's a little rounded overgrowth of tooth enamel. Mine is beneath the gum line and I of course thought I was dying when I felt it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:19 PM on September 4, 2019


I had a panicky few days back in the spring of 2018 when I feared that I had a detached retina, but it turned out I only had a posterior vitreous detachment, which sounds unnecessarily terrifying.

My doctor told me that on a scale of 1 to 100, if a detached retina were 99, a PVD would be maybe a 3. It took a while to stop seeing the floaters and light flashing in my peripheral vision, but once I knew what it was (and stopped hyperventilating), I stopped noticing it maybe 98% of the time.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:24 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Pituitary Micro-adenoma - benign pituitary tumor. Unlike a prolactinoma which can be harmful and often requires treatment, this type really isn’t doing anything.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:26 PM on September 4, 2019


A “sinus arrhythmia” sounds like a serious heart problem but is a totally benign thing—your heartbeat gets faster when you inhale deeply and slows back down to baseline when you exhale.
posted by jesourie at 1:46 PM on September 4, 2019


My condition was described as "erythema multiforme" which is just Greek for red spots all over your body. Basically, I was getting hives and they had no idea why which is "chronic idiopathic urticaria." I would never wish those hives on anyone. The itch! Had them off and on about ten years, but they aren't exactly life threatening.
posted by Gotanda at 5:10 PM on September 4, 2019


I recently had a severe abdominal pain so bad I went to the ER. Turns out I had epiploic appendagitis (sounds like appendicitis, but it's not), a condition that is very painful while it's happening but then it heals on its own, usually within a week. Most people don't even need antibiotics, just painkillers. It was Not Fun, but knowing that it would go away on its own made the pain more bearable since I was no longer worried I was dying. -_-
posted by Mouse Army at 6:02 PM on September 4, 2019


Vasovagal syncope (essentially an increased tendency to faint in response to certain stimuli).
posted by peacheater at 6:02 PM on September 4, 2019


Morton's Neuroma
posted by terrapin at 7:04 PM on September 4, 2019


Toxic Synovitis -- inflammation of the hip that clears quickly but can cause temporary limping/inability to walk.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:21 PM on September 4, 2019


"postprandial stupor/somnolence" = food coma
posted by alexei at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2019


Benign uterine neoplasm - you're pregnant.

Phimosis - non-retractable foreskin
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:29 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Angioma sounds like heart cancer but it's really red moles. They're sometimes irritating but totally benign.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:15 PM on September 4, 2019


I have mandibular tori and think they’re pretty cool!
posted by Synesthesia at 10:30 PM on September 4, 2019


A contusion.
posted by Dansaman at 11:41 PM on September 4, 2019


Subconjunctival hemorrhage - a burst blood vessel in the eye. Generally harmless, but definitely sounds (and looks!) scary.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:16 AM on September 5, 2019


In the UK, the not-uncommon disease that I knew as mono is called "glandular fever" - which, to me, sounds much more terrifying. YMMV.
posted by Gordafarin at 3:05 AM on September 5, 2019


Pompholyx - spotty eczema of the hands; penile Mondor’s disease - a clot in a tiny vein, mesenteric lymphadenitis, testicular appendage torsion, mega cisterna magna - benign finding of extra fluid around brain.
posted by quercus23 at 4:11 AM on September 5, 2019


Gilbert's Syndrome = slightly raised bilirubin levels but it's classified as a liver disease so you sound much sicker than you are.
posted by mrfuga0 at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2019


Gynocomastia a/k/a man-boobs.
posted by dobbs at 5:51 PM on September 5, 2019


This is fun! One of the old docs where I trained used to call these "Five Dollar Words"

Meralgia paresthestica = a numb patch on the outer thigh. Loosen your belt.

Somnambulism = sleep-walking

Benign uterine neoplasm = fibroid moreso than pregnancy (unless you want to be cutesy about being pregnant)

Rhinorrhea = runny nose.

Tachyphemia = talking fast

Bradyphrenia = thinking slow, or "foggy-headed"

Micturition = peeing

Mastication = chewing

Epistaxis = nosebleed

Incidentaloma = an irrelevant/unexpected finding that leads to more expensive (and usually unnecessary) tests.
posted by basalganglia at 6:36 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Bloody show
posted by unstrungharp at 10:44 PM on November 1, 2019


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