The Problem With Self-Diagnosis | Carson Tahoe Health

Although the Internet Has Answers, They May Not Be the Right Ones

Have you ever “Googled” your symptoms? What about trying to self-identify a cough your loved one hasn’t been able to kick?

You’re certainly not alone. Findings from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project indicate more than one-third of U.S. adults use the Internet to self-diagnose a medical condition.

It is crucial to consult an expert in the field, whether it be your primary care physician, an urgent care doctor, or perhaps a specialist. Here’s why:

The Internet is a place of misleading information.

Yes, you can find out the common symptoms for a sinus infection. But what if those same symptoms identify a much larger medical concern?

The Internet, now infamous for its ads and algorithms, may lead you astray. If Google notices you’re researching a certain over-the-counter medication for an illness you believe you have, it may start advertising it to you, subconsciously reinforcing your need for it.

If you do not, in fact, have this illness, you could be misusing over the counter medications, and perhaps experience harmful side effects.

You could be wrong.

From the same Pew Research Center study, less than half of participants — 41 percent — said that a doctor confirmed the diagnosis they made from online research. 35 percent said they did not seek a professional opinion, and 18 percent said the medical professional or clinician did not agree with what they thought, or had a different opinion about their condition.

Although the Internet seems as if it’s an endless pit of knowledge, it may not be the right information for your condition. While sites like WebMD and Psych Central host medical information and possible solutions, they are not conclusive for your exact condition. The Internet, albeit savvy, doesn’t have a medical license or the support/liabilities of supervisors, ethics boards, etc. that doctors have to properly diagnose and treat individuals.

Self-treatment can be dangerous.

Diagnosis, when properly performed, is more than a collection of “Googled” symptoms.

There are nuances to medicine, which is why people spend years and years studying it. If these subtleties are missed, which can happen quite often when finding research online, there may be a severe misdiagnosis.

If treated improperly, one the original problem will not go away, and two, the treatment may cause physical or repercussions, harmful to your health.

For example, if you’re experiencing body aches and a change in mood and have chalked it up to the beginning phases of the flu, you may be missing that body aches could be a sign of coronary artery disease. Your doctor would never have the chance to perform an EKG for chest pain, because you think you have a cold.

The bottom line is – when in doubt, see a professional. Your health is the most valuable thing you’ll ever own, and it’s worth letting professionals properly address your concerns.

You’ll gain peace of mind, and probably better health!