Study warns of misdiagnosis in using the net for self-treatment

13 May 2015

With easy access to the internet, people are learning more about various diseases and conditions and how to tackle them. But that should not make them skip or delay visiting their doctor, which could potentially aggravate the situation.

Even more worryingly, according to a new study irrelevant information on the internet usually leads to people diagnosing their condition incorrectly and delay visiting their doctor.

Statistics reveals that each month users conduct half a billion searches on the internet for health-related information that raises the health risk they run.

According to Dr Guido Zuccon, of the University of Queensland in Australia, people commonly turned to search engines to self-diagnose illnesses, but only three of the first 10 results were highly useful for self-diagnosis, and only half of the top 10 were somewhat relevant to the self-diagnosis of the medical condition. 

He added, that this way people either kept searching or got the wrong advice, which could be potentially harmful as search engines performed effectively only if the name of the illness is already known.

According to the researchers, the internet was also helping to create a new condition, ''cyberchondria'' the baseless fuelling of fears and anxiety about common health symptoms.

If users searched for the symptoms of something like a bad head cold, one could end up thinking one had something far more serious, like an issue with the brain.

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