Thursday, March 13, 2008
Medical Reports: Cyberchondriacs
We've all done it. You get a symptom and instead of going to the doctor, you turn to the Internet to self diagnose, but, as Seven's Christine Cruz shows us, doctors say it could be turning us into Cyberchondriacs.
WSVN -- Emailing, shopping, getting directions, these days we use the Internet for almost everything, even playing doctor.
Landa Naya: "Automatically, if I have a symptom or if I think I am coming down with something, I will go on the Internet."
Instead of waiting at the doctor's office, Landa plugs in her symptoms to the worldwide web for a quick answer.
Landa Naya: "Anything, from pain to I'm not breathing right. I get on the Internet, try to find the problem, take care of it and find the solution."
Sometimes she gets it right, but often she ends up driving herself crazy with worry.
Landa Naya: "It tells you, you may have this wrong with you or that wrong with you."
Doctors say our easy access to health websites is creating what they call cyberchondriacs.
Dr. Ines Braceras: "I think, in general, the Internet is creating cyberchondriacs because there is so much information out there. Patients end up coming in thinking that they have everything in the book."
Or worse, people end up with the wrong self-diagnosis. Doctors warn a generic symptom like shortness of breath could be anything from heart problems to anemia.
Dr. Ines Braceras: "They might miss something that they do have that might be serious that the doctor needs to investigate further."
And waiting too long to see a doctor could mean life or death.
Dr. Frank Pearl: "We are certainly seeing people come in later than they should because they've gone to the Internet first, trying to self diagnose."
Doctors say if you're going to use the Internet, use it to educate yourself after you've received a solid diagnosis from your physician. Also, be careful where you get your information.
Dr. Frank Pearl: "You want to go to the websites that are run by medical associations, or Web MD, that are physician driven."
As for Landa, she can't promise she won't peak at the Internet the next time she gets sick.
Landa Naya: "I will probably keep up doing my Google searches and finding out if anything is wrong, and then probably end up in a doctor's office."
Christine Cruz: "Doctors also say to stay away from chat rooms because, most of the time, you're not talking to a doctor or to someone who is qualified to treat you."