Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don’t Do Your Doctor’s Job: Why Self Diagnosis Can Be Downright Dangerous

You have probably had a strange ache or pain that persists, a rash that will not respond to any lotions or creams, or a sudden fever that seems to come from out of nowhere.  You probably are not looking for reasons to run to the doctor’s office every chance you get.  However, when you need answers, there is only one real option: see your doctor.  Many people are now assuming the role of physician by doing their own research on the Internet, attempting to self diagnose, and potentially causing themselves harm.

The Internet can be a great tool for health education and research.  Staying healthy is one of the leading reasons people flock to the web, for answers on diet, exercise, supplements, and medications.  However, when you are facing a troubling or unusual symptom, even a symptom that is out of the ordinary but does not seem to bother you too much, trying to identify a potential cause by matching that symptom to a medical condition can be confusing and potentially terrifying.

Reading medical websites with their A-Z symptom lists can be scary.  To give an example, persistent redness on your cheeks could be a symptom of rosacea, a mild inflammatory skin condition, or lupus, a very serious autoimmune disorder that requires immediate medical intervention.  The anxiety and stress that can come from imagining what is going on inside your body, versus actually knowing, can aggravate your problem and will do nothing to help you get better.

Many diseases share common symptoms and are hard to diagnose even for physicians.  That is why ordering the proper tests to identify specific factors is imperative.  The time to make a doctor’s appointment is not after months of trying one home remedy after another until you are desperate for answers.  Such a strategy is not only stressful but could be life threatening.   If you are experiencing a strange symptom, call your doctor.  Only a qualified physician can tell you if what you are going through is just a “bug” that is going around, a reaction to something (such as an allergy), or a more serious condition requiring further tests.  By calling your doctor right away, you are giving yourself the best chance of a speedier recovery, proper diagnosis and treatment plan, and peace of mind.

It is also important to trust your doctor.  While you may not be a physician, you are ultimately the one in control of your body and health.  Be sure to have a doctor who listens to you and with whom you feel comfortable.  If not, seek a physician with the qualities you desire through referrals from friends and family.

In the end, we all want to live long, vibrant lives full of promise, love, and gratitude.  Love yourself enough to know when something is bothering you, to seek professional help.  Your body will thank you for it.