Cyberchondria: The Good, The Bad, and The Neurotic Side of Internet Diagnosis

GeekMom

vitruvian-man-475x664In typical GeekMom fashion when someone in the family gets sick, I hit my favorite medical sites to diagnose their illness. Sometimes this helps us avoid an expensive trip to the doctor and other times it causes us to make an appointment. Since I am a bit of a hypochondriac and have just enough medical knowledge to be dangerous, I usually jump to the worst possible disease that even remotely matches the given symptoms.

I just recently diagnosed myself as a cyberchondriac, but I digress.

Our now five month old son was something of a puzzle initially. He was terribly fussy, wanting to nurse all the time, and wouldn’t sleep. So I hit the internet to see what I could find. I came across a diagnosis called silent reflux. Our son had every symptom they listed. So, with information in hand and a small sense of dread, we made an appointment with his pediatrician. There have been other times when, armed with my internet diagnosis, the pediatrician has dismissed my claims. We have since changed doctors and I was pleasantly surprised after I presented my case that our new pediatrician agreed with me. Our little man was given an antacid prescription and has been a much happier baby ever since.

Given that anyone can post anything and call it fact on the internet, I typically stick with these sites when attempting a diagnosis or researching an illness:

  1. WebMD: this site has a fantastic symptom checker
  2. KidsHealth: this site has tons of info, but what I like best is that there are articles geared towards the different audiences of kids, teens, and parents. You could even let your geekling help diagnose a sibling… not that I would do that, but I’m just saying.
  3. Kellymom: this site has a wealth of information on breastfeeding, parenting, and various illnesses. This is the place where I first heard the term silent reflux.

So when someone in your house comes down with a mysterious ailment, do your research and present it to the doctor. The worst that can happen is getting a note in your chart that reads something like “Warning: this patient is a cyberchondriac and slightly off their rocker”. The best that can happen is that they agree with you and you have helped your family member get diagnosed and treated more quickly. I would take the note in my chart any day.

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16 thoughts on “Cyberchondria: The Good, The Bad, and The Neurotic Side of Internet Diagnosis

  1. Thanks for this post. I LOVE kellymom.com–it helped me figure out that my daughter had a milk protein allergy when everyone else was saying she was “just” colicky. I tend to be a cyberchondriac, too, but it is certainly helpful to good doctors when their patient (or patient’s mother) is well-informed.

  2. Thanks for this post. I LOVE kellymom.com–it helped me figure out that my daughter had a milk protein allergy when everyone else was saying she was “just” colicky. I tend to be a cyberchondriac, too, but it is certainly helpful to good doctors when their patient (or patient’s mother) is well-informed.

  3. My usual system is to find out the most obvious symptoms of what I am pretty sure I have and then present myself to the doctor in the most obvious way so I don’t have to explain that I think I know what’s wrong already. Of course, I’m a microbiologist, I do my research, and I hate doctors, so if I’m there it’s usually because I need a drug I can’t get or I broke something (or think I did).

  4. My usual system is to find out the most obvious symptoms of what I am pretty sure I have and then present myself to the doctor in the most obvious way so I don’t have to explain that I think I know what’s wrong already. Of course, I’m a microbiologist, I do my research, and I hate doctors, so if I’m there it’s usually because I need a drug I can’t get or I broke something (or think I did).

  5. As a Medical practitioner myself, I would like to differ on the opinion that the patient or the relative decides one’s diagnosis. I definitely agree on the fact that medical information is readily available on the net, but the expertise and experience required to interpret the symptoms and come to diagnosis might be totally different.

    Good that your son got better on the suggestion of a diagnosis by you which was well supported by his paediatrician. The information acquired by you would definitely help you in supporting your son during the illness and interpret the progress of recovery.

    Of course, I would not like to comment on the different physicians and their clinical and diagnostic acumen.

    1. “As a Medical practitioner myself, I would like to differ on the opinion that the patient or the relative decides one’s diagnosis. I definitely agree on the fact that medical information is readily available on the net, but the expertise and experience required to interpret the symptoms and come to diagnosis might be totally different.”

      I agree with you there. I was just trying to say that the internet is a good tool and it is important to be an advocate for your own and your child’s health. Ultimately though, doctors have the expertise and experience to make a diagnosis.

  6. As a Medical practitioner myself, I would like to differ on the opinion that the patient or the relative decides one’s diagnosis. I definitely agree on the fact that medical information is readily available on the net, but the expertise and experience required to interpret the symptoms and come to diagnosis might be totally different.

    Good that your son got better on the suggestion of a diagnosis by you which was well supported by his paediatrician. The information acquired by you would definitely help you in supporting your son during the illness and interpret the progress of recovery.

    Of course, I would not like to comment on the different physicians and their clinical and diagnostic acumen.

    1. “As a Medical practitioner myself, I would like to differ on the opinion that the patient or the relative decides one’s diagnosis. I definitely agree on the fact that medical information is readily available on the net, but the expertise and experience required to interpret the symptoms and come to diagnosis might be totally different.”

      I agree with you there. I was just trying to say that the internet is a good tool and it is important to be an advocate for your own and your child’s health. Ultimately though, doctors have the expertise and experience to make a diagnosis.

  7. yes, because as we all know, 15 minutes on the internet is equivalent to 7 years of medical training.

    you shared with us one example of when you were correct (marginally): will you promise to share with us the 35 other times you were wildly wrong?

    the best thing you can do is track and log symptoms, but walking into a doctor’s office with a diagnosis is annoying.

    “i hate doctors”. yeah, that’s a super attitude.

  8. yes, because as we all know, 15 minutes on the internet is equivalent to 7 years of medical training.

    you shared with us one example of when you were correct (marginally): will you promise to share with us the 35 other times you were wildly wrong?

    the best thing you can do is track and log symptoms, but walking into a doctor’s office with a diagnosis is annoying.

    “i hate doctors”. yeah, that’s a super attitude.

  9. The internet per se can not give you a diagnosis. It can only help you take charge of your own health and help your doctor figure out what is wrong with you. It is your health after all and doctors make mistakes too.

  10. The internet per se can not give you a diagnosis. It can only help you take charge of your own health and help your doctor figure out what is wrong with you. It is your health after all and doctors make mistakes too.

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