We’ve all done it - gone online to research a medical issue. We want to be be more knowledgeable, take control of any perceived health problems, and quickly find answers. While that is all good reasoning, there are some problems that can arise when we self-diagnose rather than consulting a medical professional.
For some that means a persistent cough can quickly escalate into bronchitis or pneumonia. Or a bad heachache can seem like a brain tumor when we find online results from any of the millions of health websites and see that we may share one or two symptoms of something more serious.
These websites and blog can often have confusing, overwhelming, or anxiety-inducing information and in some cases, information that is just false. A study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that 90 percent of Wikipedia entries for the 10 most costly medical conditions (asthma, back pain, cancer, depression, diabetes, disorders related to trauma, heart disease, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and osteoarthritis) contain errors.
That’s a serious problem since nearly 80 percent of women go online to do medical research and around 60 percent of those searches are done are specifically to diagnose a medical condition. The average woman spends roughly 52 hours a year looking for health help online, but sees a doctor only 3 times during that period.
Here are some things to remember when going online to get medical information:
Consult a Medical Professional - Write down your symptoms and any questions you have and and bring them to your doctor. The doctor will listen to you, perform an examination, and suggest tests if necessary. Remember, your doctor is a trained professional and will come to a diagnosis based a variety factors including age, family history, previous conditions, etc. Those individual variants can not be considered when you find general information online.
Limit Searches - Don’t spend all day trying to dig deeper and doing more searches. It will be ease to get overwhelming, conflicting and often misinformation. Limit searches to no more than 20 minutes each. It may even be best to completely stop doing online searches until you see your doctor.
Don’t Panic - Simply finding out that you share a particular symptom with a disease doesn't mean you have the condition. There could be a simple, non-life-threatening explanation for your aches or pains. Don't ignore symptoms, but don't automatically assume the worst.
Understand That Misinformation Exists Online - Not everything you read online is correct. Do not take all information (even if it seems to be coming from a reputable online source) at face value. It’s good to want more knowledge, but not all of the sources that exist online are delivering complete, accurate information.
Be Vigilant - If you are truly convinced that your doctor isn’t properly diagnosing your problems or fully understanding the extent of your issues, seek the advice of another medical professional. You should take control of your own health and have the right to ask questions, seek more tests or information and see another doctor/specialist.
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