If you start getting sick and you don't know what's wrong, do you ever start searching your symptoms online? A lot of people do that but that doesn't make it safe. Heading online instead of seeing a doctor could be dangerous.
Dr. Deborah Lauridsen says she likes it when patients come to her with some knowledge of what could be wrong with them. But she says too often people come in armed with facts from internet "medical" sites that are simply not correct. The growing trend is known as "Cyberchondria."
Lauridsen says that can lead to patients needlessly scaring themselves.
"Patients tend to believe the more serious diseases rather than if they have a cough they just have a simple cold." says Lauridsen.
Dr. Lauridsen says a big part of making a proper diagnosis is looking at a person's medical history. Often people use websites that do not take medical history and other variables into consideration as a doctor would.
Fatigue, joint pain and skin rashes are all symptoms of the serious disease called lupus. But look them up on an internet symptoms site, and you'll likely see the same symptoms can also be signs of everything from multiple sclerosis to lung cancer, even simple hay fever and more than 100 other illnesses.
Lauridsen says, "Every individual is different and every situation is different. So they should not rely on information from somebody that's not a healthcare professional."
Dr. Lauridsen says there are some sites she recommends for people who want to do a little homework before seeing their physician. They include FamilyDoctor.org from the American Academy of Family Physicians. She also recommends CDC.gov from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Lauridsen says some sites specific to one particular illness are often good resources as well. She recommends sites such as Cancer.org (American Cancer Society) and Diabetes.org (American Diabetes Association) as good examples of illness specific sites.
Bottom line, Dr. Lauridsen says the chances are very high you will come up with an incorrect diagnosis if you do it yourself on the web. She says to be informed, but leave the diagnosing to a healthcare professional.