Read this before you do a Google image search. 

By Christina Oehler
July 23, 2019

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid seeing the notorious “blue waffle disease” photo, consider yourself lucky.

In 2010, a graphic photo of an STI called blue waffle disease made the rounds on the internet. The image shows a scabbed, seemingly infected, blue-tinted labia. (If you don't believe us, search Google Images for it yourself—though we strongly advise against it.)

The image gained further traction when a New Jersey councilwoman was mocked after announcing that the disease, which only women can get, had claimed 85 lives. 

Luckily, despite the realistic-looking photo and the councilwoman's bogus claims, blue waffle disease is nothing more than an internet hoax. Phew.

Not only is this fictitious illness absent from reputable medical texts, periodicals, and websites, it's been debunked by prominent doctors. In a 2017 speech presented on the Annals of Internal Medicine website, Anita Ravi, MD, a family medicine physician based in New Jersey, confirmed that the disease was not real. 

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"It is a well-known, elaborate internet hoax with somebody who has extensive, beautiful photoshopping skills," Dr. Ravi said. She spoke about it two years ago, but the image continues to circulate, and unsuspecting people fall for it.

Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida, confirmed to Health that she has never heard of the disease and that she doesn't believe it could be real. 

However, if you are experiencing discomfort, itching, or any other symptom on or around your vulva or vagina, it's important to get them checked, she advises. You won't be diagnosed with blue waffle disease, but tests might show that you have another STI.

RELATED: Which STD Tests You Should Get and Why

"If someone is having STIs symptoms, regardless of whether they were recently exposed or not, it is important that they see their doctor," says Dr. Greves. "Sometimes symptoms do not present immediately."

Some STIs and vaginal infections actually have symptoms that are similar (but not as disgusting) as those in the blue waffle disease photo. Herpes Simplex Virus-2, or genital herpes, can cause blistering sores and ulcers that eventually become scabs. A yeast infection can cause redness and swelling outside the vagina. 

While neither condition will make your labia turn blue, you'll want to see a doctor to address the symptoms.

RELATED: What Happened When I Took an At-Home STD Test

So rest easy knowing that the infamous disturbing image of "blue waffle disease" isn't anything to worry about...because it doesn't exist. Yet don't wait to get tested if something doesn't feel right down below.

Even if things seem fine with your private parts, make sure you get regular tests as advised by your ob-gyn anyway. Sometimes it's the illnesses that often have no obvious signs—like the STIs chlamydia and gonnorhea, or even HIV—that can end up doing the most damage to your health.

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