Yahoo! search data

What Were the Juiciest Health Stories this Month?

October 6, 2011 at 11:41 am , by

Every month our friends at Yahoo! send us a snapshot of the month’s top health searches. I used to expect not to be surprised by what makes the list. After all, I spend a fair amount of time reading health news. The nerd in me likes to try to predict what people were most interested in. Usually I get some right (always on the list: bedbugs), but every month I find a few things that make me think, “What is that about?” Here are the most interesting terms from September’s batch, all of which fell in the top three when Yahoo! looked at what women were digging for.

3. Babesiosis
I definitely never would have guessed this one because I’ve never heard of it. But I’m betting that’s exactly why it was near the top—no one had heard of it, until a recent study in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases found that it’s on the rise, made some headlines and sent everyone to their search bars to learn more.

So what is it? Unfortunately it is not a mutant bacterium that will turn you into a total babe, as I was hoping. It’s a parasite that attacks your red blood cells. Like Lyme disease, babesiosis is spread by deer ticks, and it can cause similar symptoms including high fever, headache and muscle aches. But it’s much harder to diagnose because there’s no telltale rash, and many people who are infected have no symptoms at all. While it is treated with antibiotics, it can be fatal in people with compromised immune systems, like if you have cancer or you’ve had your spleen removed. Treatment isn’t necessary if you’re not experiencing symptoms, but what’s startling is babesiosis’ potential to spread through donated blood. There isn’t a screening test yet, so people could be passing the parasite along unknowingly at local blood drives. And because blood is donated most often to people in a compromised state, this could be really dangerous.

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When Celebs Make Health News

August 4, 2011 at 10:38 am , by

AMY WINEHOUSEWhen a celebrity talks about a diagnosis, it’s guaranteed to make headlines. If you’re like me, you’re one of those people whose defenses are useless against celebrity coverage. Whether it’s about a cheating spouse or new baby pictures, I can’t help but read about it when I’m scanning the news.

Maybe I’d be better off reading something more “important,” but it’s not such a bad thing when the article is about a celeb’s health. Besides giving you a look into their lives, this kind of news also piques our interest in often under-the-radar health issues. This month’s batch of top health searches from Yahoo! proves that when famous people get sick, it makes people think about their own health. These three celebrity-related health searches were among the top 25.

21. Borderline Personality Disorder
? Ever heard of this one? I hadn’t. Characterized by unstable and turbulent emotions, BPD started spiking on Yahoo! after Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall revealed his diagnosis. People with BPD have trouble maintaining relationships, suffer from bouts of anger and may act dangerously impulsive. Even though it was a male celeb who brought it to everyone’s attention, BPD is actually more common in women.

12. Psoriasis
Searches this month spiked 286 percent for psoriasis after Kim Kardashian was diagnosed with the skin condition. But people weren’t just looking for photos or information about Kardashian—terms like “psoriasis treatment” and “psoriasis symptoms” also spiked in response to the news. It’s good that it’s getting attention because psoriasis may be more than just a skin problem. It’s also a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure, according to a recent study. See our colleague Nykia’s recent blog about psoriasis and what it mean’s for Kim Kardashian’s wedding day.

2.  Addiction Treatment
Amy Winehouse’s tragic death may have had something to do with this one coming in at No. 2 on the list. We still don’t know the cause of the crooner’s death—now speculation is centered on alcohol withdrawal—but her struggle with addiction was about as well known as her music. Yahoo! search experts saw a 57 percent increase for “addiction” on the day of her death, and searches for “addiction treatment” were sky high all month long. Maybe people took her death as a warning sign?

Graham Whitby-Allstar/Globe Photos. Inc. © 2007

Top Head-Scratcher Health Searches on Yahoo!

July 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm , by

SEARCH-1-1Raise your hand if you’ve ever sleuthed out funky symptoms on the web or searched a term your doctor used that you didn’t understand. I’m willing to bet everyone reading this has done both of these things. Your search bar is a useful tool when you’re looking for answers about your personal health, but when you look at what we’re all searching you see some surprising trends.

What health topics are people really wondering about? And what do our searches say about us? Our friends at Yahoo! have some answers. Every month they cull their data from their more than 3 billion monthly searches, and send us a snapshot of what people are digging for. Here are three intriguing topics from the top 20 searches in July.

12. Dengue Fever
What the heck is Dengue fever and why was it number 12 this month? Well, it’s a flu-like virus spread by mosquitoes, and it can be fatal. Although this illness is mainly a concern in Asian countries, cases around the globe have grown dramatically in recent years, according to the World Health Organization. If you read the rest of the list, you’ll find many bug-related searches; it’s just that time of year. But recent reports about “vicious,” hard-to-kill Asian tiger mosquitoes infiltrating urban areas all over the country may have added to our fears about bug-borne diseases. The same type of mosquito was responsible for a Dengue fever outbreak in Hawaii a few years ago. Shudder.

6. Lobotomy
Another huh? Lobotomies, which haven’t exactly been standard practice for decades, were once used to treat schizophrenia, depression and other mental health problems by severing the connections between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain. Even Yahoo! experts were stumped on this one, but said most searches were for “define lobotomy” rather than “I need a lobotomy.” Whew. Maybe they’d all been watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

1. Chronic Pain
This one took the top spot this month—but why? Probably because a new Institute of Medicine report found that at least 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, meaning it continues for more than six months, many times even after the original cause of the pain has been resolved. The report concluded that treatment is often “delayed, inaccessible and inadequate,” and called for an entirely new way of treating pain. With such a frustrating disorder finally getting some much-needed attention, it seems pain patients took to the web in droves to let out a collective “I told you so!”

Read more for the full list. Read more