Hitesh Dodhia, Superintendent Pharmacist at PharmacyOutlet.co.uk provides his opinion on the common symptoms you should always seek medical advice for.
We’ve all been there: waking up in the middle of the night with a nagging headache, dealing with a cough that just won’t go away, or noticing a mysterious rash. More often than not, our first reaction is to go online and use Google to find a quick-fix solution. Yet how many of us are relying on online sources to self-diagnosis and how effective is it in sourcing the effective treatment of symptoms?
PharmacyOutlet.co.uk recently found that 39% of us regularly use Google and other search engines to self-diagnose commonplace health issues. But with only half of all symptom checker websites actually providing accurate results, it’s no wonder that misdiagnosing a symptom can not only increase anxiety; it can also lead to the wrong treatment being administered. For example, mistreatment may result in hypochondria: the condition in which a person is inordinately worried about having a serious illness, resulting in an inaccurate perception of a symptom without a proper medical diagnosis.
While this may seem like an extreme scenario, there is a high risk of mistreating symptoms when self-diagnosing. Given the sheer size and scale of available information online, it isn’t surprising that finding the right information can be extremely difficult. This can also mean that people are using much more bizarre treatments for common health issues, sometimes to the detriment of their own personal wellbeing.
While self-diagnosing online can be a quick and easy method, here are some situations when medical advice should always be sought.
Sudden weight loss
An unexplained drop in weight could indicate a more serious health problem such as an overactive thyroid, diabetes or even a mental health issue such as depression. Losing significant amounts of weight over a short-time period requires urgent medical attention from a healthcare professional. They will be able to identify the cause behind the weight loss and provide tailored treatment, particularly if the sudden loss of weight is linked to a more serious health problem.
Self-diagnosis can become a major problem when you are in a state of denial about your own symptoms. This is particularly true when it comes to overlooking prolonged discomfort and adjusting to pain instead of uncovering the root cause of a problem. Take, for example, joint pain. People can often overlook the stiffness and swelling of joints as a minor issue and normalise the pain in order to carry on with an active lifestyle. However, ignoring and normalising joint pain can increase the risk of developing a lifelong chronic pain condition such as arthritis. That’s why it is always important to seek medical help when suffering from joint pain.
Mental health issues
Mental health issues are notoriously difficult to self-diagnose online. While online forums have become popular for those suffering from anxiety problems ‘ who find it difficult to talk to a stranger about their issues ‘ online support can be too generic for people suffering long-term mental health problems.
Mental health is also difficult to diagnose as symptoms can masquerade or mask other health-care issues. Take anxiety, which often is linked to other mental health issues such as depression. Simply diagnosing yourself with an anxiety disorder means running the risk of overlooking a more significant health concern.
Always seek professional help
When self-diagnosing health symptoms through online sources, people run the risk of mistreating, misdiagnosing or simply dismissing symptoms as being minor or unimportant. In reality, professional medical advice is always preferable, be it from a pharmacist or GP. Ignoring seemingly minor symptoms or mistreating an illness due to a misdiagnosis may risk exacerbating the problem. So, if you find yourself in one of the above situations, be sure to seek professional medical advice from either your pharmacist or GP.