Doctor warns against cyber self-diagnosis

Study: Most adults search for health info online

INDIANAPOLIS - People are trying to self-diagnose their illnesses on the Internet, and according to doctors, that is not a good thing.

According to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of the adults who use the Internet have searched for health information in the past year, and 35 percent say they have gone online to try to figure out what medical condition they, or someone else, might have. 

"It's a good idea to be informed consumers of health care, but the problem is there is a tendency to assume the worst about your condition, about what you read on the Internet," said family physician Dr. Gerald Mick. "Although the information is good, there is a lack of context."

That is the trap that Becky Ireland fell into, and she became distraught with what she learned.

"One of my co-workers jokingly and lovingly said she would choke me if I got on the Internet again and tried to diagnose myself. So I no longer do it," Ireland said.

"(She) was very, very upset and crying and thought she had something very, very serious," said Ireland's co-worker Kathy Barrick. "I just said, 'Don't do that. Wait until your doctor tells you something is wrong with you.'"

On the other hand, Jeff Mendes said he is quite satisfied with the medical research and results he's gotten on the Internet.

"Numerous times I've read what needs to be taken for a certain ailment, and a day or two later I've followed the instructions and it's gone," Mendes said.

Doctors say it's good to learn as much as you can about an illness or disease, but only after you have been diagnosed by a doctor. 

"Spending 10 minutes on WebMD is not the same thing as consulting with a doctor who has gone to four years of college, four years of medical school, three to five years residency and (has) 10 years of experience," Mick said.

Cyber-chondria is another by-product of Internet doctoring. Some people read so much about various symptoms, they think they have everything.

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