The other day my doctor, WebMD, informed me that I had uterine fibroids:
I didn't, although I did have menstrual cramps! This I learned from an actual, human doctor, who wearily suggested that I not consult the Internet to identify symptoms anymore. "It makes our jobs harder...well, and easier," she conceded. Because at least there's also an upswing in people feeling really relieved when they find out they've mis-diagnosed themselves!
Says the Telegraph, "Increasing numbers of people (48 per cent) say that they have used the internet to find out more about an illness according to a report by Ofcom, the media regulator. The research found women are more likely to do so, with 53 per cent admitted to looking online for medical advice, in a trend has become known was ‘Dr Google'."
Please, Dr. Google's a charlatan. All the best people go to Dr. WebM.D.'s practice. Hello, he's an M.D.! But, oddly enough, the same survey found that the diagnoses left people "worried and confused." Okay, hypochondria aside, there are times when I've found web-related medical stuff helpful: message boards and FAQ pages for birth control and medication's side effects, a migraine support group that made me feel like I had it easy! In these cases, the sense of not being alone, of finding out that things were normal, was indeed comforting. And obviously, the net is a font of homeopathic wisdom!
The problem, of course, is when it enables hypochondria. All those "see a doctor immediately" advisories are probably legally advisable - and if they've forced anyone to take something deadly seriously, well terrific. (And you can't help thinking a little light web-surfing might have been a good idea for some of those "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" dames TLC is always rounding up.) But I'm guessing the vast majority of people with something very wrong know something's very wrong. And if they're not the sort to go running to the net for the slightest sniffle, chances are they'll be calling a doctor with the other hand anyway. The problem, too, is that it's very tricky to actually tell what's wrong from listing symptoms - most of which can presage something serious anyway. Is there anything really wrong with self-diagnoses? Well, not, I suppose, if you get a real second opinion - ergo, if you have great insurance. Otherwise, yes, reading that you might - or might not! - in fact have meningitis is indeed pretty stressful. As my doctor said, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Or at least, annoying.