Are online self-diagnosis websites overlooking professional advice?


Before the Internet, doctors and physicians brandished their extensive knowledge and dominance, and patients patiently waited for their diagnosis. The first generation of web-based health information websites surfaced during the dot com boom .By the early 2000s the Internet had transformed the relationships between patients and physicians. Organizations such as WebMD, and simple forums began to provide patients much more access to information than ever before.

The way it works is, many patients would research their own symptoms, get the results from these websites and either become paranoid or enter the doctors’ clinic asking multiple questions. These medical websites are like Magic 8 balls; several clicks, searches and it will eventually provide you an answer what you want to hear. People are now turning to the Internet for information on all kinds of health issues, whether it is a newly formed pimple or a rash. The associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project says “People often go online before they see a doctor and after they see a doctor, preparing for an appointment or recovering after a doctor’s appointment.” Patients often search online to familiarize themselves with the medical terms, condition and obtain information on medications and presumptively diagnose themselves with that illness.

Over the past years the Internet has become a doctor on call and ready to deliver the bad news for many individuals. You may have developed a rash, from a simple allergic reaction, however the Internet may try to convince by saying it could be something as farfetched as syphilis. One day you wake up and Google “cant sleep at night”, the Internet will give you at least five alarming negative results, which will leave you paranoid. It is vital that we do not ignore visiting our physicians in time of need, rather then just depending on the Internet. I mean WebMD can be helpful; you can use it as a simple guide but do not heavily rely on it.

I have experienced it myself; the skin on my palms began to peel off, resulting in dry flaky skin. I began to freak out; my initial reaction was to Google my condition. I did a lot of research, terrifying myself during the process. I began reading on WebMD, blogs, message boards and academic journals. I was so consumed by the research, I became paranoid and thought I had eczema or some type of skin cancer. Then, I visited my physician immediately after and it turned out that my new soap bar was causing an allergic reaction. Be aware of the things you buy, as some shampoos, soaps, face washes may be too strong for your skin. Sometimes men will just make a purchase because a peer may have referred it. It is vital to use the product that is right for you; here are some reviews of cool stuff for men.

This kind of fear brought on by web-based self-diagnosis is referred as cyberchondria, the preoccupation with medical concerns caused by health research online. Well how does it happen? What is it? In 2008, Microsoft released the results of a large study that observed how people search the Internet for health related information and diagnosis. The Microsoft study confirmed that searching could lead to an escalation of symptoms and become a transformation of nonthreatening symptoms into concerns about more serious illnesses. A person’s anxiety over his/her headaches leads to an Internet search that takes him to a discussion of brain tumours. Both the search and the anxiety can escalate as the person spends more time searching for information about brain tumours.

The risk of self-diagnosing can be dangerous, but reliable medical sites and smart research can lead an individual to awareness and a healthy lifestyle. Stick with reliable websites such as WebMD, John Hopkins’ Medicine or the Mayo Clinic. As a patient feel free to do research prior visiting your physician, so you can be prepared with questions and receive an expert feedback. If you study the symptoms and provide yourself self the diagnosis, things may go awry.

The lesson is, while the Internet is a great way to learn more about the body, you shouldn’t just rely on all medical websites just because someone you know may have said they are reliable. In my opinion, visiting your physician is the way to be diagnosed because he/she knows you and can physically examine your body while the Internet doesn’t have the capability to do that. One symptom may mean a lot of things on the Internet and after having conducted a lot of research; you might have convinced yourself that you have a terminal illness.

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