The truth is, your doctor IS the best source for health advice and relying on the internet for diagnosis or treatment can be dangerous to your health.
It’s no secret that it has never been easier to do things by yourself. When you want to learn something or take on a task that you’ve never performed before, the internet is always there to help you and give you the information you need. Of course, though, while this can work for many fields, health and medicine are simply too complicated to handle by yourself, even with the help of the web.
People find it easy (and cheaper) to turn to the Internet for information on health issues, whether it is for that mysterious lump or a wheezing attack. We have all Googled that skin rash and those home remedies for migraines, haven’t we? So much more convenient that making that appointment with the doctor and waiting there for our turn.
But what happens when there is a long list of symptoms that require completely different treatments? Would you panic? Would you spend the rest of the day stressing yourself looking at photos of skin rash?
The internet is not the best source of health advice
Unfortunately the Internet generously offers access to medical journals, videos of surgeries, testimonials and online health communities that actively discuss health issues, putting critical medical information in the hands of amateurs. This information can empower as well as endanger today’s patience who can access it on the go.
Researching health advice online can have both positive and negative consequences. This is great for physicians who can stay up to date with medical research but in the hands of patients it can be dangerous. We know very well that wrong information propagates quickly online. Spurious sites link to information that adds to these misconceptions and rumors.
Self-diagnosis and self-medication have become a way of life
People spend sleepless nights worrying about serious diseases they’ve learned about by browsing online. The fear they experience because of this is called cyberchondria, which is the preoccupation with medical concerns caused by researching their health online.
It is all too easy to learn about ailments online and match symptoms to likely causes. But the overdose of sometimes inaccurate or false information can backfire when people come across rare diseases that are completely unrelated to what they are looking for – until they match their symptoms to these.
For example, nausea and fatigue are two common symptoms for medical conditions ranging from pregnancy to hyperthyroidism. A cyberchondriac can assume she has either of these. Most signs and symptoms are not exclusive to one disease. Doctors use these symptoms along with their clinical sense to diagnose a condition.
Why your doctor is your best source for health advice
To give you an idea of how important your doctor really is and why she is your best source for health advice, let’s summarize four issues with online medicine and diagnosis.
Following Bad Advice
There is plenty of excellent advice around the web, but this doesn’t mean that everything you read is good. Alongside the quality articles, you can find countless blogs, comments, and other resources that will point you in the wrong direction with your medical health. This can prove to be disastrous, with people often getting a lot sicker when they follow the wrong advice online. It’s always worth seeing a doctor for your advice, even if you only talk to them on the phone.
Connecting the Wrong Dots
People will often look at a handful of their symptoms when they are trying to diagnose something, but it can be very easy to focus on the wrong element of this when you don’t understand the world of medicine. For example, it can be very easy to mistake memory loss with something like dementia, but this sort of condition can also occur when someone isn’t getting enough oxygen in their blood. Both of these conditions would require very different treatments.
No Expert Eye
The dots that get connected to find the right treatment for you will almost always require an expert eye. You can’t get this online, making it very hard to get answers that relate to your actual condition. Even if you talk to experts on sites like Reddit, they won’t be able to see the issue, and this means that their answers could be completely wrong. This would also be the case with a real doctor, with many professionals like this struggling to offer their services via video call for this reason.
There are few things more stressful than thinking you have a serious medical condition. People often find themselves going down the rabbit hole, searching for things like the signs of thyroid problems rather than actually looking for their own symptoms. This will only lend itself to confirmation bias, though, and this means that you can get yourself worked up over nothing when you don’t take the step to see a professional doctor.
Let’s face it, nothing is worse than a misdiagnosis of our condition, resulting in a delay in getting real help thanks to all the wrong advice out there. There’s a reason doctors spend years in college. Your health is extremely important, and it’s never worth leaving something like this to chance. Instead, ensure that you are always talking to the right people about your health, even if you feel confident in your ability to learn online. Remember, your doctor is the best source for health advice.