Four dangers of self-diagnosing through the web

With an almost limitless amount of information available to us 24/7, it has become a common practice to turn to Google for answers to ailments. However, while in theory learning more about potential symptoms may help ease a person’s mind, the risk of self-diagnosing looms large. A Statista survey found that 68 percent  of British adults diagnose themselves through the web at least every few months -- if not more regularly.

The issue with self-diagnosis is that it may deter people from visiting a doctor. Without medical expertise, self-diagnosis can often become misdiagnosis. Here we take a look at the key issues with self-diagnosing using the web.

1.     Inaccurate information

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One of the most significant problems with self-diagnosing is that it can often be based on inaccurate information. In the case of online searches, unregulated sources of medical information on the web can be highly unreliable. With limited medical knowledge, it’s not always easy for a patient to determine the information’s credibility.

This is why it’s crucial to ask for professional help when something’s not right. A doctor will be able to spot what is causing an issue and give safe advice. With years of training, qualifications, and experience under their belt, they should always be the first port of call. What’s more, physicians have access to a patient’s medical history, which provides them with a clearer picture and a better understanding of the potential causes of symptoms. This also means that they are able to prescribe safe medications and solutions, taking into consideration existing conditions and whatever other medication the patient is taking.

2.     Overlapping symptoms

It is fair to say that many conditions have similar symptoms. Weakness, pain, and fatigue are generally the most predominant, and they can be linked to an extremely wide range of possible health issues. Therefore, it is often tricky to formulate a diagnosis based on these common symptoms alone.

Doctors have the knowledge and equipment to rule out possible illnesses and identify the true cause of discomfort. A quick and accurate diagnosis is vital, as some conditions will need further treatment -- a door that self-diagnosis cannot open. Occasionally surgery may be required to properly treat your condition. For faster access to surgical treatment, you can get private health insurance, helping you to avoid lengthy waiting lists for surgery and get you on the road to recovery quicker.

3.     Over or under-diagnosis

Of course, another prevalent risk with self-diagnosing is overestimating or minimizing symptoms. Confusing a headache for a much more serious condition can lead to unneeded distress, but in the same way dismissing a pain with reassurance from the internet could cost a patient their important early diagnosis window.

4.     Can cause stress

There is no denying that self-diagnosis can be anxiety-inducing. Based on information found online, a person may start to feel worried and anxious, believing that their health is worse than it actually is. This is particularly true for people suffering from cyberchondria, a condition which induces a person to both seek medical information online and feel very nervous about the intimidating diagnoses they find.

Self-diagnosing can hide an array of potential risks and dangers. From sourcing inaccurate information to miscalculating the gravity of symptoms, there are many downsides to trying to self-diagnose. Therefore, we hope this article shines a light on the importance of seeking medical help and advice, which can instead provide founded answers and -- hopefully -- some much-needed peace of mind.

Photo Credit: Antonio Gravante/Shutterstock

Jonjo Hancock-Fell works at private health cover provider, Westfield Health.

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