You wake up one morning and discover that something is wrong. You don’t feel quite right or something looks off when you stare in your mirror. You run to your laptop and call up your Google Search Engine. You need to find out what might be causing that headache; that tingling in your hand or the strange rash that has blossomed across your neck. You enter your symptoms and skim down the list of diseases and discover that OMG..I’M DYING!
You panic, you call your best friend, a relative or your spouse and sadly relay the bad news. You only have 6 months to a year; you’re on the way out, its adios amigos time! Now, these people who you run to for support during your last days on earth, do little to qualm you’re fears.
Your friend tells you that her 3rd cousin on her stepmother’s side of the family had the EXACT SAME THING and was laid to rest a short while later. Your relative gives you the terrifying news that her neighbor had just passed away from the EXACT SAME THING! Your spouse (or SO) screams “Oh, crap..I’ve got the same symptoms..I must have the EXACT SAME THING!”
Finally, you do what you should have done in the first place. You call your doctor! He is the person that dedicated twelve to twenty years learning how to diagnose your symptoms. He will examine you, he will run tests and he will explain what is happening with you. He has been trained to do just that and it’s remarkable that his skills resulted in finding out that your headache is just a headache; the tingling in your hand is caused by the shoulder strain you suffered a few days ago and that rash was from an allergy to those strawberries you packed on your shortcake.
You smile, maybe feeling a little foolish, and go home breathing a sigh of relief. Your attempt to self-diagnose using the Internet only resulted in maybe a few hours or a few days of stress, worry and terror that the end was near.
But, there is a dark side to using the Internet to self-diagnose. You might find that your symptoms match relatively harmless conditions and you use the recommended home remedies to treat yourself. These remedies might mask your symptoms and give you a false feeling of wellness; while an insidious infection or disease is allowed to grow undiagnosed and untreated.
That headache that hurts worse than any headache you’ve ever had could be signs of an oncoming stroke; the tingling in your hands could be an early warning of a heart attack and that rash might be the result of an insect bite that is causing a life-threatening virus. By delaying a diagnoses from a doctor, you could be risking your life.
Now, I have used the Internet to research a particular illness, condition or disease. But, I do so only after a trained medical person has diagnosed it. I use the information to learn about its symptoms; its treatment. I use it to gain an understanding of what things I might be able to do to speed up the recovery time or learn how to cope with a long-term condition.
I would no sooner self-diagnose myself or anyone else using the Internet. I wouldn’t re-wire my house on my own, I’m not an electrician. I wouldn’t attempt to install a new bathtub because I’m not a plumber. So, why would I self-diagnose when I’m not a doctor?
So, when someone calls me and asks me to look on the Internet to see what their symptoms mean, I gently refuse and tell them to call the one person who has that knowledge..their doctor! I tell them after they have received a diagnoses and treatment, I will gladly look up all the information about their medical malady.
By doing this, I might just be saving their life!