Beware of the Internet Diagnosis!

AbilityVoice: a blog about mobility topics

My sister was in New York City working on a video shoot when she experienced severe pain between her first and second toe. At first she thought it was her new shoes, but when it persisted at home, she grew concerned.

Each of us has the capacity for hypochondria, and that's one diagnosis the Internet encourages.

It was the weekend and she knew she would have to wait until Monday to call a doctor, but in the meantime she did her own 'internet diagnosis' and googled, "toe pain, numbness." After reading the symptoms from several web sites, she diagnosed herself with Morton's Neuroma. She took over-the-counter pain pills, placed a Dr. Scholl's foot gel cushion on the bottom of her foot, and felt a little better.

Eventually she made an appointment with a podiatrist who treated her for...Morton's Neuroma! While she correctly diagnosed her toe problems, it's more common that people incorrectly diagnose themselves, either under-diagnosing a serious health problem or over-diagnosing a minor one.

It's a dangerous practice. We all need to use common sense when using the Internet to understand personal health problems. Anyone can post medical information on the Internet. Some is accurate, some is of the "snake oil" variety. The best information is found on reputable sites: The Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, or national organizations.

The risk of self-diagnosis, of course, is that we make the wrong diagnosis and then start incorrect treatment. We are not trained professionals. What we might see in our bodies lacks the objectivity that a doctor has. We might think we are having a heart attack, but are really experiencing a panic attack. It takes a healthcare professional to put all the symptoms together and diagnose us correctly.

Each of us has the capacity for hypochondria, and that's one diagnosis the Internet encourages. The Internet has been a terrific source for me to find online support groups, gather advice for managing my MS and researchmobility products. But if I have a health problem, I see my real doctor, not Dr. Google.

The same might be said about some of the internet companies that prey upon people like us - hoping that we're so desperate that they can make a quick buck and then leave us high and dry. Just like health issues, when you're trying to address your mobility needs, don't just rely on Dr. Google. Do your research and talk to people who actually know what they're talking about.