(This is Part 2 of a 2-part series. You can find part 1 here.)

Almost everyone is susceptible to self-diagnosis from well-meaning searches, but some people are more prone than others. When I was in medical school 39 years ago, before the internet took off, we called it Medical Student Disease. It usually involved one or more of us, depending on what ordinary symptoms we had that day, wondering if we had the disease we were studying. It usually subsided when we got into enough detail about these diseases to realize we didn’t have them. I’m sure it’s a side-effect of the training of any healthcare professional. 

Possible Hazards

Using Dr. Google to make a self-diagnosis in order to avoid seeking medical care, second-guess your primary care provider, or seek alternative treatments can cause a lot of problems.

Delaying the Correct Diagnosis and Treatment

Using Google to make a diagnosis may lead to a misdiagnosis and delay the correct diagnosis. It can be further delayed for those who have difficulty surrendering their self-diagnosis after seeing their healthcare provider.

Cyberchondria

Cyberchondria is a form of illness anxiety disorder (formerly called

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This is Part 1 of a 2-part series.

The internet is full of medical information. Much of it is accurate and current, but some of it is inaccurate, out of date, misleading, biased, or downright advertising. Moreover, sometimes weird-sounding things actually work (for example, fecal transplants for C. difficile infections). On the other hand, there are perfectly seemingly logical solutions that are not effective (such as antibiotics for most ear infections).

However, accuracy is not the major problem with online medical information. The problem is that too many people use Dr. Google for self-diagnosis. While it may be tempting to use the internet as a way of avoiding going to a healthcare professional, it’s not really up to the task.

Many people seeking a diagnosis search their symptoms and look at the results as confirmation of their condition. In addition to possible misinformation, this eliminates the crucial role of the medical history and physical examination in the making of a diagnosis.

This approach is fraught with danger. While incorrect results can be falsely reassuring, they will more likely be

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Social justice is the concept that all individuals deserve equal rights and opportunities — including the right to health. Even in 2020, inequities remain in healthcare that are avoidable, unnecessary, and unjust. These inequities are the result of established policies and practices that maintain an unequal concentration of money, power, resources, and perceived value within society among communities based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, country of origin, or disability. Racism, homophobia/transphobia, and misogyny are all insidious forms of bigotry that have long-reaching effects into healthcare.

Over 30% of medical expenses faced by communities of color can be associated with health inequities, and are more likely to be affected by conditions

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Photo by Matteo Paganelli

Today is World Day of Social Justice, when we promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, and unemployment.

Social justice is the concept that all individuals deserve equal rights and opportunities — including the right to health. Even in 2019, inequities remain in healthcare that are avoidable, unnecessary, and unjust. These inequities are the result of established policies and practices that maintain an unequal concentration of money, power, resources, and perceived value within society among communities based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, country of origin, or disability.

Racism, homophobia/transphobia, and misogyny are all insidious forms of bigotry that have long-reaching effects into healthcare. Over 30% of medical expenses faced by communities of color can be associated with health inequities, and are more likely to be affected by

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“Can Parasitic Worms Cure Seasonal Allergies?”

“New Study Shows Too Much of This Breakfast Staple Will Literally Kill You”

“Here’s Why Sitting is Worse for Your Health than Smoking”

You  — or someone you know — is bound to see headlines like these every day. After all, looking up health information remains one of the most popular internet activities. But as the saying goes, you can’t believe everything you read.

Kelly McBride, vice president of the Poynter Institute, last year told The Atlantic that “of all the categories of fake news, health news is the worst. There’s more bad health news out there than there is in any other category.”

Whether it’s viral stories that dandelion weed cures cancer, bogus health advice falsely attributed to the Mayo Clinic, advertisements masquerading as news, or outright fake medical news, scammers have found all sorts of new hacks to earn clicks and trick readers with sensationalized content.

Below I want to dive deeper into two recent examples of popular health stories that misrepresent the underlying science. I’ll point out where they went

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