Most of us have been there a time or two. A pain in the pinky finger and a tingling right knee leads to the severe-and senseless-diagnosis of scary words like cancer or paronychia or diverticulitis or other large words that we certainly cannot pronounce and likely never knew existed. The explanations that follow such words are even scarier: seen in people with blood cancer, extremely rare genetic condition, and/or a fatal neurological disease that slowly destroys the brain.
In short, that tingling can only mean one thing: You're dying. Unless, of course, it doesn't mean that at all but rather, it means that you got a little-or a lot-carried away while self-diagnosing yourself on the Internet, via websites such as WebMD or YourDiagnosis.com.
Unfortunately when it comes to your health or the health of your loved ones, Google doesn't always know everything. In fact, this excessive Internet searching itself has a diagnosis: cyberchondria. It turns out there is a right way and a wrong way to research your symptoms online. Getting education enough to ask your doctor the right questions is key. Over-researching and/or overanalyzing your symptoms may lead to more medical problems-such as hyperventilation.
It has also been suggested that such research is powerful enough to lead a person to start semanticizing-their mind tricks them into believing they have symptoms that more accurately fit the disease he or she has just discovered he or she has.
In fact, WebMD's symptom checker comes with the following disclaimer: This tool does not provide medical advice.
It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911. Ironic how the first sentence states the site doesn't give advice, but then advises a person-eh? Not that it matters much-People who think they are dying don't have time to read disclaimers.
So what can your doctor tell you that the Internet cannot? While the Internet is wise in a number of fields, diagnosing medical problems may not be its strong suit. However, a doctor who has spent many years gaining valuable insight, education, and human experience can not only ask you the right questions that lead to the right diagnosis, but he or she can also keep your blood pressure down by not carelessly throwing out those scary terminal-like words. A physician will also be able to give patients trustworthy websites, post-diagnosis, that can aid in providing helpful, accurate information.
On the flip side, it is also possible for the Internet to under-diagnose what might be a more serious medical condition. This is why a physician is ALWAYS the best medical resource. A patient's best route is to be symptomatically honest with both his or her doctor and his or her self. Sorry, Dr. Google.