February 8, 2021 5:30:42 pm
Most people, around the world, have the tendency to run a quick Google search, whenever they display certain symptoms synonymous with common ailments — seasonal or otherwise. This leads to a barrage of troubling results, which stresses them further. This can be counter-productive and even dangerous to their health. This is why doctors advise against self-diagnosis.
General physicians at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Dr Sanjay Shah and Dr Pradip Shah, share with indianexpress.com that the digital revolution has changed many aspects of our lives, especially in the way we source health-related information, as it is easily and freely available. “In the earlier times, 1 out of 10 patients used to seek health information on the internet, but today that number has changed to 9 out of 10,” they say.
This is especially true now, in the pandemic, when people have been searching for ways to make hand sanitizers at home, and even searching for symptoms to find out if they have contracted the virus. Ironic and dangerous!
The risk of mis-diagnosis, over-diagnosis or under-diagnosis
“More often than not, self-diagnosis points at something more frightening. It can lead to mis-diagnosis or over-diagnosis. For example, if you search for ‘headache’, you are likely to find around 20 results showing different interpretation of headaches, each scarier than the other. There are chances your headache may be something small, but the internet search shows signs of a cancerous tumor or some other neurological problem.
“In the bargain, you will freak out and this may cause high level of stress. Self-medication involves pharmacological risks that can result in severe adverse reactions. Sometimes, you would even under-diagnose yourself which could have a serious long-term impact on the quality of life or worse, death,” the doctors warn.
Know about ‘cyberchondria’
Cyberchondria refers to a person’s anxiety about their health that is created by excessive use of the internet to search for medical information. The doctors say that it has lately become quite a problem, “as people resort to finding out what the internet has to say about their health and well-being”. “People with cyberchondria tend to misinterpret normal bodily changes and minor physical symptoms as signs of serious illness or disease. For many living with health anxiety, the fear can become so severe that it can interfere with work and relationships.”
Seeking help from a medical professional
“We come across patients with a whole list of questions they have about their symptoms and medical condition. Some patients come with a diagnosis they have already arrived at by using the internet. And some come with lab reports and medical investigations, also a result of online searching.
“Of course, we would call them empowered patients, but quite often, these people display a lack of trust in the health advice offered by doctors. We must understand no technology or internet search can completely replace professional medical help,” they say.
Things to keep in mind
* Anyone can publish content online
* Look to online search as your starting point, not your final answer
* Seek information from reliable websites such as health clinics, hospital websites, reputed health magazines and publications
* Don’t delay actual care from medical professionals
* Do your online research, then write down your questions, call your doctor or a health center in your neighbourhood, and talk to someone who knows how to tie all the pieces together
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