Research shows that about a third of American adults have gone online to self-diagnose their medical condition. About double that go online just to search for health information. Clearly, we trust our Google skills, even when it comes to life and limb.
Google recently released data showing the 20 most Googled diseases, and interestingly, there are four in the top 20 that dermatologists usually take care of: shingles, psoriasis, herpes and scabies.
Googleing disorders or performing a digital diagnosis can be helpful or harmful. Typically, Googleing a disease for symptoms similar to your own will add more stress to the situation. Some become convinced that they have a serious disease, when in actuality they don’t.
On the other hand, some people Google diseases and symptoms and decide that the pictures and descriptions don’t match what they are feeling. This can be even more dangerous than getting stressed out over your condition, because it leads people to avoid getting medical advice from a trained professional. Ignoring symptoms is never a good idea. Getting a second opinion from someone who’s trained for years in recognizing and diagnosing diseases is a good idea.
That said, it’s always good for patients to be informed about their health. Learn all you can about possible diseases related to your symptoms, so you can ask Dr. Myers questions and get the answers you want. Finding trustworthy sources can be tricky. Medical associations and medical journals can be good, but confusing to understand. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a good place to start.
And just for fun, here is the complete list of the 20 most Googled diseases.
5. Yeast infection
10. Lyme disease
18. Strep throat
Google reported in 2016 that 1% of Google searches are related to medical symptoms. Considering the billions of Google searches, 1% is a lot.
Source: Google, 2017
Cyberchondria: Obsession with perceived medical symptoms, even though you’re healthy. This condition centers around repeated internet searches and worsening anxiety, to the point that it influences relationships and work.