Have you ever noticed that every time we are stuck in a difficult situation or are looking for a solution to almost anything under the sun, we bank upon Mr. Google!
We are so engrossed in this digital world that we rely on the internet for things like shopping, socializing, learning new things or for that matter, finding a medicine for a quick relief.
Since we get solutions within the snap of a finger, Google has transformed into ‘Dr. Google’! No matter how easy and time-saving it may seem, self-diagnosis and medication are putting your health at risk.
It is quite ironical that people find it difficult to spare time to even visit a doctor but spend hours on the internet looking for antibiotics that give them relief.
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Dr. Ravi Gaur, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Oncquest Labs Pvt. Ltd., says, “Dr. Google and other such internet search sites have made the medical practice very easy but it’s scary too. When we’re down with any illness, people often opt for searching on the internet, rather than going to a doctor to save their time and arrive at a diagnosis.”
According to a report published in The Telegraph, one in four self-diagnose on the internet instead of visiting the doctor. Despite the fact that the internet offers great information about the diseases, precautions and treatments, relying solely on the online information can be dangerous.
Firstly, the internet is a mixed bag of resources that may be misleading or baseless; secondly, it can lead to unnecessary anxiety, fears, and withdrawal from the fact that s/he is suffering from a disease.
Dr. Ravi Gaur added, “Self-diagnosis can be very harmful because there are many disorders which have common symptoms. For e.g. if someone is suffering from a serious disorder but Google shows some other disorder, they might take simple medicines and skip going to a doctor. At times, self-diagnosis done by Dr. Internet simply by matching symptoms may conclude that it’s a case of the heart attack; however, a more objective analysis by a qualified doctor, that also considers the risk of having a particular condition, might suggest that it’s just a case of hiccups. This can lead to serious health issues. Thus, by using the internet to self-diagnose can be unwise because we tend to focus on symptoms rather than the risk of having the illness.”
Risks of misdiagnosis
If you are into self-diagnosis, it means that you are undermining the role of a doctor. Apart from higher chances of misdiagnosis, you are also vulnerable to psychological syndromes. You are more likely to misinterpret the symptoms and pop medicines that may not have any effect as the actual problem is something else.
This misdiagnosis may take two different forms-Self Positivity and Self Negativity wherein people overestimate their risk of falling ill and opposite in the case of self-negativity.
For instance, as a layman, a person may get confused with the symptoms of indigestion with a heart pain, only an experienced doctor can give an accurate diagnosis and treatment of the problem.
Dr. Ravi Gaur explains, “It adversely affects the mental health as people end up acquiring stress and tension which gradually affects the disorder one is suffering from. Many a times, when the symptoms are same, people get scared, make health conditions seem scarier than they are and take wrong medicines which can lead to severe side-effects. It’s important to proceed with caution when consulting Dr. Internet for anything and everything, because a self-diagnosis can be just as scary, and like everything else, moderation is the key.”
The urge of searching symptoms on the internet has become so common that there’s a separate term used for that i.e. cyberchondria. It is a condition when the patient searches the symptoms online and correlates it to something complex. E.g. Symptoms of cold may look like cancer.
Dr. Ravi Gaur agrees and says, “Cyberchondriac, a term that describes a growing number of otherwise rational internet users who land up with unfounded anxiety concerning the state of their health brought on by visiting health and medical websites. Cyberchondria has been around for almost a decade, but in the last couple of years, the numbers are growing very rapidly.”
Since there is a higher risk of misdiagnosis, the patient may bear the unpleasant side-effects. According to a report published in Mail Online, the most common wrongly diagnosed illnesses online are breast cancer, thrush, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, depression, diabetes, sexual health problems & thyroid problems.
“There are many diseases but the most frequently searched diseases are those with vague symptoms involving multiple systems. Cancer, genetic disorder, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, antenatal care, gynecological disorder, hormonal imbalance, infertility, headache & fatigue, arthritis, allergy, stress and anxiety, vision & hearing related diseases are a few very common ailments people surf on the internet,” said Dr. Ravi Gaur.
Consulting an experienced doctor at the right time gives a much more accurate & reliable diagnosis than the internet.
Dr. Ravi Gaur says, “Human body is very complex and dynamic. Physiology and genetics of every individual are very different. No two human beings are alike. So is our response to a disease. Although there may be a common cause, common symptom & sign but the response to a disease and medication differs in every individual.”
A slight misinterpretation can result in a wrong treatment of the disease that you don’t even possess, therefore, it would be the right thing to trust your doctor and do not be an impatient patient!