Danger of Dr Google: 25 per cent of women misdiagnose themselves on the internetOne in ten have endured unpleasant side effects after self-medicating
00:30 GMT, 18 April 2012
When you’re faced with an unexplained medical problem, it can seem easier and quicker to go online for answers rather than wait for a doctor’s appointment.
But researchers have found that one in four British women has misdiagnosed themselves on the internet – then bought the wrong product to try to cure their illness.
‘Dr Google’ is now the first port of call for women with health concerns, but it rarely provides an accurate diagnosis, the experts say.
Misled: Experts have highlighted the dangers of self-medicating on the basis of an unreliable online diagnosis
In fact, searching for symptoms online and self-medicating has led one in ten women to endure unpleasant side effects as a result of their misdiagnosis.
And almost half of women have diagnosed themselves online, then bought a treatment on the high street without checking with pharmacists if it is the correct product.
The trend for trusting the internet over medical professionals or friends and family was highlighted in a survey of 1,000 women. A fifth had at some time wrongly suspected they had a serious disease.
The most common false alarm came over
breast cancer, while many women had wrongly diagnosed themselves as
having thrush, high blood pressure or asthma.
The symptoms most likely to prompt women to consult Dr Google were sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.
Three quarters of those polled said there were some health issues that they weren’t comfortable talking to friends and family about.
Half of women always tried to deal with embarrassing medical problems themselves before seeking help from others.
Ask the experts: Breast cancer was the illness most commonly misdiagnosed on the internet, while sleep problems such as insomnia were the symptoms most likely to drive women to the web in search of relief
More than a quarter said they dreaded talking to doctors about such problems.
Because of waiting times, almost a third visited the doctor only as a last resort. Many women said they spent ‘days’ worrying about symptoms before speaking to anyone, while a third had spent at least two weeks sweating over an ailment.
Remarkably, one in 20 women said they
had spent several years worrying whether a symptom was something serious
before eventually getting it checked out.
The research was commissioned by feminine health brand Balance Activ to mark National BV Day, which aims to raise awareness of Bacterial Vaginosis – a condition that is almost twice as prevalent as thrush that 2 out of 3 women are misdiagnosing.
If left untreated BV has been linked to some serious health implications including an increased risk in contracting STIs, infertility and miscarriage if present during pregnancy.
Balance Activ spokesman Penny McCormick said: ‘There is an increasing trend towards using the internet to diagnose any irregularities or worries we have about our bodies.
‘The web gives us a wealth of information that can be useful in reducing our worries until we’re able to gain proper advice from a medical authority, but the results show how easy it is to make mistakes when diagnosing ourselves.
‘It’s important we learn which information to trust online and that we’re able to make the distinction between what can be self-diagnosed and easily treated, and what definitely requires the help of a medical professional.
‘What can seem like a relatively harmless but embarrassing symptom could develop into something more serious, so it is important for women to ensure they are asking the right questions and treating certain conditions effectively.’