Should You Self-Diagnose a Health Issue?

Do you tend to go online whenever you experience a health issue? Do you type in your symptoms in your favourite browser which takes you to an online medical site? If you have, the results can be reassuring, or they can scare the living daylights out of you. Not that you’re alone, some 60% of all women and 30% of all men do the same. Whenever something is wrong with their health, they think they can find the cause and the solution online.

Self-diagnosis is of course nothing new – people have been doing it for generations. When they experience a runny nose, they know they have a cold. When they experience a sore throat and fever, they assume they have the flu. With this diagnoses, they take a couple of Aspirin, take it easy and wait for the situation to get better. Today with the internet they can find out so much more though, but is this type of self-diagnosis safe? As with everything, there are some benefits and pitfalls.

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One of the advantages of an online doctor is that you don’t physically have to go to a doctor, saving you time and money. However, it’s key to go through an actual online consultation before ordering medication rather than self-diagnosing an issue and trying to treat it yourself. A legitimate online doctor will assess your symptoms, inquire about your medical history and may even refer you to your GP for further assessment if they feel there may be an underlying issue.

Think about it; it takes a man or a woman nine years to become a doctor. Four years of studying as an undergraduate, four years in medical school, followed by one year of residency in a hospital. During this time they read countless books, are exposed to a variety of medical conditions and are quizzed on diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Even when they graduate and become licensed doctors, they don’t always trust their judgment. When faced with a particular problem, they might consult with another doctor, order tests, or send you to a specialist. Before making a conclusive diagnosis, a doctor will send you for an X-ray, an ultrasound, MRI or CT-scan. It’s even possible that a doctor will send you for a biopsy. With all of that information, he or she can move on to the right treatment.

Now compare this scenario with what you’re doing. You turn to the internet, type in a few symptoms, and within seconds an online doctor comes up with a diagnosis. This alone should tell you that this practice is unreliable.

Say for instance that you type in ‘what causes migraines’. The internet response might be high blood pressure, brain tumour, or anxiety. While these are possibilities, the simple answer might be that you drank a bit too much last night, or that you are allergic to a particular type of food. Then again, if those migraines are persistent and you do have a tumour, it’s important that this condition is confirmed and treated as soon as possible.

On the other hand, you could experience a persistent headache along with constipation, nausea and low energy. Consult the computer with all this, and the answer might be that you’re suffering from stress. Nothing to worry about, right, because everybody suffers a certain amount of stress. However, these very same symptoms also pertain to pregnancy, in which case it’s vital to see a doctor as soon as possible.

If you need another reason why it’s not a good idea to self-diagnose, consider the following. If your washing machine springs a leak, the chandelier short circuits, or your computer won’t start up, do you try to solve the problem yourself? Chances are, you don’t. You call a plumber to look at your washing machine, an electrician to fix your chandelier and you take your computer to an IT Specialist. You don’t try to fix these things yourself because you know little or nothing about them and could make the situation worse. So why, where it comes to your health or that of your loved ones would you trust the internet with a diagnosis? Always consult with a professional when it comes to your health – it could literally save your life.

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