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THE AGE OF SELF-DIAGNOSIS: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

By Kayla Giacin
Thursday, May 3, 2012

I think that I grew up during a very interesting age of technology where over several decades I saw a complete change in how people seek information.  I’m at an age where my first grammar school research project was done with a set of encyclopedias and several trips to the local library, and by the time I graduated college, I could have completed an entire thesis from the comforts of home on my laptop at any time of the day.

Information is available to us so readily, it’s no wonder that so many of us jump online to scour the internet for information when we hear of a new study pertaining to childhood cancer or would like to find out what a new symptom means.

As helpful as a search tool as the internet can be, there can also be a danger in self-diagnosis.  Someone doesn’t have to have credentials to post information online and since it is so easy for them to post and just as easy for us to access, a lot of misinformation can be passed along.

Besides incorrect information being given, you can also be doing yourself a disservice by looking into a non-professional medical opinion or one without the knowledge that goes along with your personal situation.  I’m terribly guilty of going to medical information sites when I experience a new symptom.  This sometimes creates unecessary worry over a medical diagnosis that isn't true for my particular case. Even if the website’s information is correct – it is unlikely that the information that I look up in a search engine will compare to the expertise that goes along with telling a professional my symptoms while they can perform an exam and evaluation. 

That’s not to say that these online tools aren’t helpful.  They can be used as guides to help you determine if you think you need to bring certain issues up to your doctor or to use in conjunction with a professional opinion. 

Some helpful hints to determine if your internet research is leading you in the right directions are to:

·Compare information you find on the Internet with other resources. These can include medical textbooks, medical journals, or information from organization.

·Check the credentials of the author or organization. These should be clearly displayed on the Website. Be cautious of personal testimonies. These are based on one person's experience rather than objective facts or proven medical research. Also be cautious about using information from online bulletin boards or chat sessions.

·Be cautious of Websites that advertise and sell products. These may claim to improve your health, but if the Website is promoting a product or service, the information may be slanted to support the use of that product or service. Some reliable Websites provide health information. These include Websites of government agencies, health foundations, or associations and medical colleges. Check the posting date. Information changes rapidly in healthcare. The information on an old Website may no longer be current.

·Talk with your doctor about the information you find on the Internet. This is especially important if you find information or advice that seems to contradict what your doctor told you.  (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00386)

Also remember that oftentimes, especially for all of the parents out there, your instincts can be one of your most valuable diagnostic tools.  When combined with your self-research and the final conclusions you are able to make with an expert, you can create a better and well-rounded awareness of an illness that you or a loved one is dealing with. 

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