Surely I am not the only doctor who gets a lot of questions from panicked patients who come to you after googling their symptoms. Besides giving your doctor a headache or a sore throat by having to answer too many unrelated queries, more importantly here is why Googling your symptoms can be a bad idea for your own well-being too:
Online search results may provide a wide range of potential causes for your symptoms, including rare and serious conditions. It is easy to misinterpret the information or jump to conclusions, leading to unnecessary anxiety or fear. Self-diagnosing based on internet searches is highly unreliable and can result in incorrect conclusions about your health.
2. Anxiety and Stress
Reading about various health conditions online can create unnecessary anxiety and stress. Minor symptoms that are likely to resolve on their own can suddenly seem much more severe when reading about potential serious diseases online.
3. Lack of Context
Online search engines don’t know your full medical history, lifestyle, or other relevant factors that can influence your symptoms. What is normal in an old person may not be normal in a young person. A medical professional considers all these aspects when making a diagnosis, which is something a search engine cannot do. Though with AI it may be possible in the future but presently we are still lagging behind.
4. Confirmation Bias
A confirmation bias is the tendency of people to favor or get biased towards information that supports their existing beliefs. If you find information that even partially matches your fears or preconceived notions, you may be tempted to latch onto that and overlook more plausible or benign explanations for your symptoms. In fact some people start experiencing additional symptoms after reading about a possible diagnosis online.
5. Delay in Seeking Proper Medical Care
Googling your symptoms and relying on internet searches might lead you to delay seeking medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for many medical conditions, so avoiding proper and timely care could lead to complications or even make your disease progress to an incurable stage.
6. Too much Information
The internet is vast, and not all sources are reliable. Sorting through the vast amount of information can be overwhelming and confusing, not to say time consuming too, making it difficult to discern what is accurate and trustworthy. A lot of precious time is sometimes wasted making sense of the plethora of information if you are not trained professional.
7. Wrong Diagnosis and self -treatment
When googling your symptoms, engaging in online health forums or seeking advice from non-professionals can be dangerous. People may share anecdotal experiences that are not necessarily applicable to your situation or may even provide harmful advice. I see plenty of patients who have tried this or that remedy because their neighbour or aunt had used it and it helped him/her but it ended up exacerbating their problem as it was not the right advice for the. Unfortunately the internet is full of such advice about medical topics from unqualified people.
8. Privacy concerns
Lastly but most importantly, online searches can leave traces of your health concerns, which might not be desirable if you value your privacy or want to keep health matters confidential. As much as a website may tell you that they keep your data confidential, there are so many cases where user information was leaked or used for nefarious purposes by hackers.
While googling your symptoms on the internet can be a valuable resource for health information, it should never replace a consultation with a qualified healthcare professional. If you are experiencing concerning symptoms or have health-related questions, it is always best to seek guidance from a doctor or medical expert who can provide personalized and accurate advice based on your specific situation.
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