Should You Diagnose Your Symptoms Online?

Without context, it is very easy to convince yourself that you have any condition.  If you’ve already decided that you have a condition, it’s pretty easy to find a website that will confirm it.  Similarly, you can use the internet to convince yourself you don’t have a specific condition, by looking for a more benign cause of a symptom.   But as we all should know by now, the internet is full of bad advice.

It is typically the constellation of symptoms that lead to a diagnosis.  For this reason, seeking help from a professional is much wiser than just looking the causes of one symptom up online.   There are many causes of common symptom like headaches, abdominal pain, dizziness, and nausea.  You cannot make an internet diagnosis based solely on common symptoms.  Less common and more specific symptoms can help you pinpoint a likely cause, but this requires the guidance of a professional.

If you do choose to look up your symptoms online use credible websites, or pages associated with medical schools.  It is important to remember that not everything published to the internet is equal, some sites are supported by medical evidence while others are simply personal opinion. For this reason, do not make changes to your lifestyle, medication regimens or start a self-prescribe treatment without discussing it first with your physicians.

Why your doctor is different from Google

Before a doctor is allowed to practice, they go through a minimum of 10 years of training providing them with the context needed to process the sea of information available regarding medical conditions.  Your doctor might also be using the internet to stay abreast of the most recent treatment options and guidelines, but again they have a foundation on which to process the validity of the information that they are receiving.

That being said, there is a role for web-searches.  The internet can be very helpful in learning about a condition following a diagnosis, this way you can make informed decisions regarding your healthcare.  Again it is very important to choose reputable sources to get your information. You can also find resources for support following diagnosis. The internet creates an avenue to connect with others who have the same conditions, regardless of distance.


The following are symptoms that you should never Google

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should be going straight to the emergency room, not seeking online medical advice:

1.       Chest Pain

2.       Shortness of Breath:

3.       Symptoms of stroke or transient ischemic accident:

·          Weakness, numbness, or inability to move any part of your body;

·          Any changes in vision, including double vision, blurry vision, or loss of vision;

·          Difficulty speaking ;

·          Confusion;

·          Feelings of dizziness, loss of balance, unsteadiness, or difficulty walking;

·          Recent head injury (such as a fall) or stroke

4.  Seizur