With the prevalence of the internet, the temptation to self-diagnose is almost irresistible. Just a few typed keywords and a quick couple clicks can give you access to unfathomable amounts of medical information. In fact, the temptation is so strong that the Pew Research center estimates nearly 80% of US denizens consult the internet with important health questions. However, doing just that can lead to all kinds of trouble. Here’s a few reasons why you might want to reconsider before typing your symptoms into Google.
It’s often inaccurate
A sobering statistic: 9 out of 10 of the Wikipedia article on today’s most costly medical conditions contain errors. And not only does the internet contain unvetted errors, there’s also a high chance of misinterpreting even the most accurate information, if you have no medical experience. This can lead to both overdiagnosing and underdiagnosing, in other words downplaying important problems (and not getting the help you need) or blowing minor issues out of proportion.
It can increase anxiety
Maybe you’ve been there before–you search online for the cause of your mysterious new rash, only to be convinced a half hour later that you have cancer. You start wondering who you should give your belongings to, and how you should spend you last precious years of life. There’s a name for this condition at its worse: cyberchondria, which is a specific type of medical anxiety caused by online research and self-diagnosis. It’s a growing concern among medical practitioners, who increasingly see patients that are terrified and convinced they have a rare and deadly disease. But even in it’s more mild forms, there’s no reason to embrace the unnecessary anxiety caused by a faulty self-diagnosis.
It can be costly
Self-diagnosing can also be costly, as potential patients seek to address problems on their own. Women’s Health Magazine recently reported the story of a woman who became convinced that she had chronic fatigue syndrome after searching for information online. After additional research, she purchased expensive herbal supplements to help with her issue. When they didn’t help, she finally visited a doctor, who informed her that rather than chronic fatigue, she had anemia: a simple problem that’s often easily fixed by an inexpensive iron vitamin.
Research symptoms to ask the right questions
So does that mean you should never search for medical information online? Some professional recommend still taking a look, but changing your overall approach. Rather than deciding on a diagnosis, instead, write down questions to ask your doctor as you research.
Once you’re ready to come in for a visit, we’d love to see you. We can help pinpoint your exact condition and give you peace of mind. Feel free to set up an appointment today.