(Health Secrets) When you choose to diagnose yourself on the Internet, you’re likely doing it because you feel conventional medicine has failed you. Despite the stigma of Internet self-diagnosis, most people do not spend hours online researching rare diseases and convincing themselves they’re terminally ill.
Most frustrated patients are turning to “Dr. Google” because they struggle with autoimmune disease and chronic pain conditions, as well as food and environmental allergies that cause mystery symptoms.
If this sounds like you, self-diagnosing because you feel there is nowhere else to turn, keep these few tips in mind to get the most out of your research and finally move toward a healthier future.
It’s Probably Not Cancer (But it Could Be)
One of the primary pitfalls of self-diagnosis is either over or under-diagnosing. For example, you have a pain in your head and a metallic taste in your mouth. You think it’s a brain tumor. (More than likely, you have chronic sinus problems).
Even though far more people convince themselves they have only weeks to live when they actually have an easily-treatable condition, it can sometimes go the other way. For example, you read that frequent urination is due to anxiety and write it off but your symptom is, in fact, due to undiagnosed diabetes.
If you’ve been struggling with the same symptoms for years and your condition has not worsened or changed suddenly, it is likely chronic, not terminal. However, if your symptoms have come on suddenly and you were healthy up until this point, it’s a wise idea to get off the web and make an appointment with a physician.
The Safest Way to Diagnose Yourself on the Internet
- Get Very Clear About Your Symptoms
Before you start typing in your list of symptoms, take out a notepad and make a list. Be very specific about the feelings, the severity, the length of time, the condition, the color, the frequency, etc. For example, just looking up the word “bruising” can lead to twenty plus conditions popping up and taking you down a rabbit hole. Instead, narrow it down. What kind of bruising? What color? Where on your body? Also, group two or three symptoms together if you have them.
- Research Trusted and Reputable Websites
You can get a general idea of what’s going on with your health by typing in a few key phrases, but beware of sites that are only trying to sell you something. If your problems are in your stomach, let’s say, you may come across a short article that talks only about how you need a colon cleanse and wants to sell you said product at the end of the piece. This could do more harm than good.
Instead, research websites that have a good reputation and are operated, written by, or fact-checked by a medical professional. You can also research a website designed to help people like you narrow down their mystery symptoms and get some answers.
One such website is IsabelHealthCare.com. Designed by a father who nearly lost his daughter to misdiagnosis in 2006, this website carefully narrows down the possibilities based on key searches. Even doctors use this site as a second check!
- Get Connected on Forums
Connecting with like-minded individuals on Internet forums can relieve some of the burden of suffering in silence with unexplained symptoms. Talk to others who’ve gone through experiences similar to yours and find out what they’ve done to treat their conditions. However, it’s important to be mindful that many of these people are also self-diagnosing. Just because you share symptoms, doesn’t necessarily mean you have the same disease.
- Seek a Second Opinion
This is the most important aspect of safely diagnosing yourself on the Internet. Once you’ve done your research, printed out studies, and highlighted book passages, it’s time to re-connect with a medical professional. If you’ve had bad luck with doctors before and are reluctant to try again, that’s understandable. You might have an easier time with a doctor of naturopathic medicine, an osteopathic physician, or even a licensed online medical practitioner.
Knowledge is power. It’s very important that you, as a struggling patient, become your own best advocate. However, it’s also just as critical to avoid the temptation to march into your current doctor’s office and wave this research in his face. If he hasn’t been listening to you thus far, this will only serve to ensure his mind stays closed. Instead, seek a second opinion from a doctor who will listen to and validate you.