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The Internet

Cyberchondria 294

Makarand writes "According to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle the ever-expanding wealth of health information online is keeping hypochondriacs constantly worried. With websites devoted to every major and esoteric illness and search engines coming up with many disease possibilities when you type in a symptom, it is becoming very easy for the health-anxious to believe that they have a disease. Many continue poring through the easily available medical information even after their doctors have given them a clean bill of health."
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  • by MooKore 2004 ( 737557 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:52PM (#8289136) Homepage Journal
    If I fail it!, then I'm cured!
  • Oh man (Score:5, Funny)

    by FrenZon ( 65408 ) * on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:54PM (#8289143) Homepage
    I think I totally have this Cyberchondria thing!
  • See a doctor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by agm ( 467017 ) * on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:54PM (#8289145)
    If you are concerned about something health related the best advice I can give is DON'T LOOK ON THE INTERNET and see a doctor. Doctors vists are a great way to get piece of mind, which IMO is well worth the cost/hassle.
    • by CracktownHts ( 655507 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:58PM (#8289179)
      Doctors vists are a great way to get piece of mind

      ...but so are NYC taxi rides. The idea behind paying a doctor is that they're supposed to give you a piece of their trained mind.

      • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Informative)

        by DebianRcksLindowsLie ( 752247 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:18PM (#8289311) Homepage
        Actually wouldn't you rather have peace of mind?

        Speaking of peace of mind...set your mind at ease. The rumors are true. Click on the link in my sig.
        • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Directrix1 ( 157787 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:54PM (#8290528)
          Piece of mind through frequent physician visits costs money. Take it from a self-diagnosed :-P hypochondriac. If you want to reduce the number of "cyberchondriacs" out there:

          DON'T just put out symptom lists, also put out comprehensive anti-symptom lists
          DON'T tout statistical inprobability as likelyhood of having or not having a disease, since statistics don't show YOUR chances of having a disease they only show the amount of people out of a sampled set who have the disease (don't even get me started on other misinterpretations of statistics)
          DO provide an open forum for discussion with doctors specializing in the field online, to allow people who still have questions to post them in a channel where they won't break the bank

          And as far as the frequent doctors visits, I don't think it would be half as big a deal if there was just some way to just talk to a MD over the phone or something. I personally hate going to see doctors. But as far as I'm concerned, when my body tells me I'm feeling horrible (whether misconceived or otherwise) I go to a doctor to get answers.
    • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ptolemu ( 322917 ) <pateym AT mcmaster DOT ca> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:00PM (#8289197) Homepage Journal
      I for one am quite paranoid when it comes to my health and refuse to search the Internet for this very reason. I have to admit though that it can just as easily have the opposite effect. But really, the best thing to do is ask someone with medical knowledge, it really is the only thing that has taken my mind off of worrying about benign symptoms.
    • Iatrogenic? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Look up the word.A major cause of death and disease.
      Also check out the ranking of "medical misadventure" in morbidity/mortality tables.
      Increase automated diagnostic technologies and remove the doctor as gateway to pharaceuticals and we can take control over our own health.
    • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Interesting)

      by glen604 ( 750214 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:08PM (#8289241)
      I think most hypochondriacs try to avoid seeing doctors because doctors won't give creedence to their personal opinions about what they think they have. It seems most of them (hypochondriacs, not doctors) are more looking for sympathy than an actual solution to whatever perceived problem they might have.
      • by bettiwettiwoo ( 239665 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {oowittewitteb}> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:09PM (#8289626) Homepage Journal
        I think most hypochondriacs try to avoid seeing doctors[.]
        I think you're wrong. I think most hypochondriacs see a lot of doctors all the time. I wouldn't -- perhaps -- go quite as far as saying that visits to the doctors is their raison d'etre (obviously, that would be spotting descriptions of new, exotic, life-threatening or otherwise interesting diseases and imagine having them), but I would say go as far as saying that such a visit would probably make a hypochondriac's day.

        It seems most of them (hypochondriacs, not doctors) are more looking for sympathy than an actual solution to whatever perceived problem they might have.
        I'm not sure I agree with that either. I think most hypochondriacs would prefer a certified medical treatment (a pill, some chemotherapy, whatever) that would convince them that they are cured from whatever illness they imagine themselves suffering from rather than sympathy. I mean, surely part of the problem -- from the hypochondriac's point of view -- is that not only are they sick, really, really sick with some -- probably -- life-threatening disease, but their doctor(s) is/are refusing to acknowledge that 'fact' and no treatment will therefore be received?! Sympathy be damned: what a hypochondriac wants is some surgery and a whole lotta pills!

        Finally, and parenthetically, I don't think the Internet has managed to add very much to the hypochondriacs' lament. Jerome K. Jerome published his Three Men In A Boat some 100 years ago: in it the narrator J. comes across a medical textbook and manages to persuade himself that he suffers from every ailment in the book (quite literarily) save housemaid's knee. Upon seeing his doctor he receives the following prescription:
        1 lb beefsteak, with
        1 pt beer
        every 6 hours.
        1 ten-mile walk every night.
        1 bed at 11 sharp every night.
        And don't stuff your head with things you don't understand.

        Which only shows that it was perfectly possible to be struck by hypochondria even without the use of electronics. Now, if only every hypochondriac were to receive such sensible advice.

        • Nicely said! I am sure back in the 15th century (BC) there were people wandering around tut-tutting "...this literacy thing will be no end of trouble, this new technology will have people reading things on those bits of clay tablet and imagining that they have all sorts of illnesses..."

      • Re:See a doctor (Score:4, Interesting)

        by The Limp Devil ( 513137 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:14PM (#8289664)
        13 years ago I lived with a doctor's family in a small Spanish village. The doctor told me that whenever on of the two village hypochondriacs showed up he would give him or her a thorough checkup and then send him home with a few salt tablets. Then they would stay away for few months before coming back for the same treatment.

        It may seem unprofessional, but it also seemed to work. It calmed the fears of these people, and made sure that they didn't put pressure on the doctor as hypochondriacs often do when rejected.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        ...actuallly, I don't know if I qualify as a hypochondriac... ;)

        I don't see the doctor because I realize that half the time I feel like crap, it has nothing to do with doctor-worthy stuff, yet I worry about it anyway, and blow it up. Sometimes stress from work and school will put me out, and my brain works over time trying to categorize it. Maybe some things are uncatagorizable. Maybe some things aren't worth catagorizing. But I do it all the same, and come up with dubious explanations for this and tha
      • Incorrect (Score:5, Informative)

        by The Tyro ( 247333 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:17PM (#8290319)
        Hypochondriasis exists along a spectrum of psychiatric disorders, known as the Factictious disorders, where patients seek out care for imagined illnesses.

        One of the keys is that they seek out care... with the extreme example being Munchausen's syndrome; patients who seek out the sick role so avidly that they fake illnesses, have unnecessary surgeries done, etc... they often harm themselves just to get medical care, and eagerly submit to any and all tests/interventions, including risky surgery.

        Along that same continuum are the hypochondriacs... they often seek out care for imagined or fear illnesses, but it's different from a Munchausen's patient... hypochondriacs see doctors out of fear/anxiety rather than a desire to assume the sick role.

        Besides their tendency to seek out medical care, they also have in common (all the somatoform disorders) the characteristic of being very resistant and difficult to treat. You can't confront them, you can't reassure them... they are utterly convinced they have a serious disease. Every doctor has a handful of these patients, particularly hypochondriacs (Munchausen's patients are much rarer), and they can be very frustrating to treat, primarily because they virtually never get better.
    • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Snad ( 719864 ) <mspace@NOspAm.bigfoot.com> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:08PM (#8289243)

      Doctors vists are a great way to get [peace] of mind, which IMO is well worth the cost/hassle.

      Whilst that's undoubtedly true, a lot of (mostly male) people are reluctant to visit their doctor, for a number of reasons. For men it usually comes down to macho "I'm fine, really" attitudes, whereas for women it's often due to them being uncomfortable discussing certain issues with (perhaps) their male doctor.

      Personally I did research a minor health issue I had before visiting my doctor and was gratified to find I was right with my own amateur diagnosis. That doesn't mean I sit in my darkened plastic bubble breathing filtered air and spend all day on the internet finding exotic and fascinating diseases I can convince myself I have.

      I believe this "cyberchondria" is like all other internet-afflicted problems. Those who are already prone to certain mental attitudes will simply use the internet to go overboard. Whether that's researching health matters, looking at porn, or surfing Slashdot all day is largely irrelevant. There will always be a small percentage of people who have an addictive personality. The rest of us will continue to find the [health information/porn/Slashdot] useful without getting psychotic about it.

      • Those who are already prone to certain mental attitudes will simply use the internet to go overboard. Whether that's researching health matters, looking at porn, or surfing Slashdot all day is largely irrelevant...

        Well, I guess two out of three ain't so bad.

      • Whilst that's undoubtedly true, a lot of (mostly male) people are reluctant to visit their doctor, for a number of reasons. For men it usually comes down to macho "I'm fine, really" attitudes,

        Very much so. And the "I'm fine, really" attitude can be a major problem. Checking whether a pain in your gut should be there or not can be an important factor... it may be the website says "All clear." It may also be that the spot you've indicated means "Get to the damn hospital now."

        Two particularly scary probl

      • Re:See a doctor (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Veridium ( 752431 )
        "Whilst that's undoubtedly true, a lot of (mostly male) people are reluctant to visit their doctor, for a number of reasons. For men it usually comes down to macho "I'm fine, really" attitudes, whereas for women it's often due to them being uncomfortable discussing certain issues with (perhaps) their male doctor."

        My grandfather died needlessly because of this. He was 81, but in great health, still fishing all the time, taking long walks, completely mentally with it(he was a HAM, constantly designing a
    • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Awptimus Prime ( 695459 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:09PM (#8289250)
      Doctors vists are a great way to get piece of mind, which IMO is well worth the cost/hassle.

      While this is true, I do not trust a doctor to not make mistakes. For instance, my reading online has caused friction between myself and a doctor I used to visit. He gave me a presciption, I looked it up online, found the dosage he gave me was far smaller than anything I had seen written. Upon asking him about it, he advised not reading websites when it comes to drugs. What about the drug company's website? What if you are curious how the drug works or how it was tested before coming to the market? How about the LD50 and side effects in animal testing? What about alternative medications? Ah yes, the doctor isn't making a profit if he's not pushing sheepish patients out the door as quickly as possible, with no questions.

      I will tend to take a doctor's advice, but no doctor's opinion is absolute. I would like to know why he chose a particular drug and dosage. I would also like to know some things about the medication that most people would prefer not to think about. While I wish I could find myself in a stupor of feeling comfort in what other people tell me, I can not escape the need to verify information given to me from multiple sources.

      • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Robert1 ( 513674 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:21PM (#8289326) Homepage
        Oh god. Yes the doctor is part of a vast conspiracy to screw you out of money.

        Could you have thought that maybe, just maybe, he really did care about making you feel better, and perhaps that's why he was doing his job?

        So his dosage was low, maybe in his experience such a dosage works fine, or whatever you had was unique enough for him to lack an encyclopedic knownowledge of. He's only human and can't possibly know everything or keep up with every drug out there.

        Seriously, not everything is a conspiracy, people are just human.
        • Re:See a doctor (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Awptimus Prime ( 695459 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:15PM (#8289670)
          Seriously, not everything is a conspiracy, people are just human.

          Right. Humans that like golf, boats, and big houses.

          I do not trust a typical doctor any more than an auto mechanic. I'm sure my mechanic doesn't want me getting online and reading about the quality differences in his OEM parts versus brand named ones, either.
          • Re:See a doctor (Score:4, Insightful)

            by zabieru ( 622547 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @11:27PM (#8290725)
            If you ask your mechanic flat out 'is this part better than the one you were going to use' and he says 'no,' and then you look it up and it is, what the hell are you doing on /.? That's what the Better Business Bureau is for. Call them up. On the other hand, I'll bet if you do that the BBB will tell you that while the part he put in isn't made to the tolerances of the other, it costs half as much, so he was absolutely right to put it in your Toyota. Remember also that (at least around here) you get a bill with an itemized listing of parts and prices. If you want the best, trust me when I say that it'll show up on the bill. What it probably won't do is line your mechanic's pockets.

            It's like this. A Lian Li is a fine case. Much better than the POS I'm using for my teacher's niece's computer. But she won't be opening the case or showing it off, so it's very likely that she also wouldn't appreciate my spending a third of the cost of the machine on a fancy case.

            As to your doctor, many drugs have uses they haven't actually been tested for, and so the drug company doesn't officially mention them, but most doctors know about them. A bad example would be Prozac for kids: It seems to work, and we don't see immediately why it'd be a problem, but I for one don't think it's safe. A good example would be the use of birth control to supress the menstrual cycle, which was recently approved, buthad often been done prior to that. Your doctor may know more than you do. It's hard to believe, but he did spend years and years studying. Rather than telling him his dosage is wrong, just ask him about it.

            I'm like you. I'm curious, and I don't like the way medical folk don't tell you what's going on, but I've found that with an application of curiousity and a demonstration that I can keep an even keel, they'll tell me. What they're worried about mostly is that when I find out they're giving an electric shock(!~!!!!1) or prescribing a drug that hasn't been tested exactly like this, I'll freak out and call security or whatever. Most likely, your doctor saw a lawsuit in the making when you start acting like you've trapped him, so he stonewalled.

            Next time, try just asking. 'Doctor, I read that the usual dosage for this is higher, so I was curious. Can you tell me a little about it?'
        • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:28PM (#8290042)
          "Oh god. Yes the doctor is part of a vast conspiracy to screw you out of money"

          Hey, the whole of *society* is a vast conspiracy to screw you out of money.

          Oh hang on, no, its called 'capitalism'
      • Re:See a doctor (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SurgeonGeneral ( 212572 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:25PM (#8289358) Journal
        He gave me a presciption, I looked it up online, found the dosage he gave me was far smaller than anything I had seen written. Upon asking him about it, he advised not reading websites when it comes to drugs. What about the drug company's website? What if you are curious how the drug works or how it was tested before coming to the market?

        I'll go ahead and answer those questions for you. (It doesnt matter what the drug is)

        According to the drug company's website, the drug is the best thing ever. According to the company's pre-market testing, it went better than ever.

        The reason he told you not to listen to the Internet when trying to get informed about drugs is because the drug companies are in SERIOUS competition with each other and will do just about anything to get you to take their's. You go online and become concerned your doctor didnt prescribe you enough of the drug? Well then you are exactly the kind of person that this article is talking about.
        • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Informative)

          by Awptimus Prime ( 695459 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:08PM (#8289619)
          Funny, the next doctor I went to said he had never heard of that low a dosage before, too.

          I'm not sure what you are trying to prove. There are plenty of independant studies of drug effects online. Not that they are any more factual than anything a particular doctor's word, but when I present a doctor with a question about my dosage, then get a blanket answer to not read online, I assume he doesn't have a more intelligent answer and find services elsewhere.

          I questioned my dosage after continuing to worsen in my condition, which took a U-turn as soon as I was on the recommended dosage.

          So what's your point again? So I saved myself further pain and frustration by finding out my particular doctor was making up his own dosages, then giving to me without explanation. Perhaps you and 30 other trolls could inject further wisdom about how wrong I was. Right.
      • Amen. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Ah yes, the doctor isn't making a profit if he's not pushing sheepish patients out the door as quickly as possible, with no questions."

        Years ago, my son was having a bad reaction to poison ivy. He was about 6 at the time. My wife took him to the doctor, and the doctor was puzzled about how bad the reaction was. He has very very white, delicate skin, and I knew he was just susceptable to stuff like that.

        But the Doctor, oh no, he sent him to a skin doctor, who didn't want to deal with it, so he perscrib
        • Re:Amen. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:58PM (#8289550)
          Perhaps an antihistamine or a corticosteroid? Do you have any idea what an allergy is? Immune response times n -- the resin from poison ivy causes an allergic reaction (it is not "toxic" to the body, just causes this reaction -- remember that certain people are immune to poison ivy). Calming the immune system down with antihistamines or corticosteroids, depending on the severity of pruritic dermatitis is quite advisable depending on the situation. If your child had taken the course prescribed by the physician, he would have been all right. You are the classic case of the cyberchondriac -- 8 years of schooling, plus n years of residency and another n years of practice experience differentiate you from the MD.
        • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by The Tyro ( 247333 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:47PM (#8290132)
          What the doctor was trying to do was treat your son's poison ivy by attacking the mechanism by which it is mediated.

          You DID know that poison ivy is a hypersensitivity reaction, didn't you? Your own immune system causes the rash and symptoms. The rash of Poison Ivy is caused by a delayed, type IV hypersensitivity reaction (cell-mediated) to the oil of one of several species in the Toxicodendron genus. There is no way to treat poison ivy, except to temporarily suppress that particular immune response, often with steroids or other drugs. Then again, you could just wait... as you discovered. Poison ivy goes away if you give it enough time... but I can't tell you the number of people I see who demand that I do something about their symptoms right now.

          If your son had a bad enough case that he was sent to a dermatologist, then your doctor may have been right on the money.

          You have every right to do what you did... but don't accuse your doctor of malpractice; you're indicting him on an issue you clearly don't understand. You are exactly the type of person they are referring to in this article.

          Then again, if we didn't have AC's talking smack, this wouldn't be slashdot.

    • Re:See a doctor (Score:4, Insightful)

      by plankers ( 27660 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:11PM (#8289267) Homepage
      ...unless your doctor is inept, doesn't care, misinformed/has old information, or is just too busy to make a good diagnosis. You are still your own best advocate, especially in matters of health. The point is not that your doctor should be your sole source of medical information, but that you should use him or her as an additional one. It is also common to get a second opinion and/or a referral to a specialist if you didn't like your physician's response, or didn't feel that they were as informed as you'd like.

      It's just like security -- security is better when there are humans involved to make rational decisions. It's the same with your health.
    • Re:See a doctor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spectecjr ( 31235 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:35PM (#8289419) Homepage
      If you are concerned about something health related the best advice I can give is DON'T LOOK ON THE INTERNET and see a doctor. Doctors vists are a great way to get piece of mind, which IMO is well worth the cost/hassle.

      Doctors can also be (pick several):

      1. Only Human, not Omnipotent AllSeeing DemiGods.
      2. Overworked.
      3. Reduced to a 15 minute visit per person, max - when the average visit used to be a much larger figure only 20 years ago.
      4. Not always up on the latest research and/or information.
      5. Quick to dismiss other possibilities after arriving at a single conclusion, even if other evidence presents itself.

      Analyzing the data effectively can give you an edge over a doctor. You know your body. You know how it should work. Just be comprehensive in your analysis, and don't leave anything out.

      I was once diagnosed with tendonitis. The actual cause of the problems I was experiencing was a small boil in my armpit (due to using antiperspirants). The lump was pressing against a nerve, giving all of the same symptoms as tendonitis (the nerves are quite exposed there). Several visits later, and I diagnose the problem myself. A short course of antibiotics later, and the problem was completely gone.

      Another example:

      I was diagnosed with borderline sleep apnea by a sleep medicine center. I was waking up with severe headaches every morning, and had a wildly variable sleep cycle. The idea would have been to go on a CPAP machine, and see if I got better.

      What was the real problem?

      I'm sensitive to caffeine. I don't get the jitters or get hyper - I just get anxious. I metabolise it so quickly that in my sleep, I'd be undergoing caffeine withdrawal. That was what the headaches were. I cut out caffeine, and everything's fine now. I'm much more confident, happier, and have *no* headaches when I wake up.

      Doctors aren't infallible. If they were, they'd be magicians. They're not - they're just human. Treat them accordingly.
  • by Hyperbolix ( 214002 ) <hyperbolix AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:54PM (#8289150) Homepage Journal
    Maybe this is due to the growth in the Pharmaceutical industry in the United States. With advertisements on TV for drugs to cure diseases people haven't even heard of, its logical that consumers will respond. The wealth of information that is available on the internet is mind boggling to most, and I was not surprised to hear about this.
    • by kurosawdust ( 654754 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:05PM (#8289225)
      With advertisements on TV for drugs to cure diseases people haven't even heard of, its logical that consumers will respond.

      Don't forget the extremely vague and universal symptoms listed in the advertisements:

      If you've ever felt depressed, disappointed, been discouraged, or have in any way failed to any extent in any endeavor you have ever attempted, ask your doctor about Lobotomol.

      • by KrispyKringle ( 672903 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:13PM (#8289281)
        Are you afraid of bad things happening? Do you worry occasionally? Do you dislike uncomfortable social situations, or occasionally feel out of place? Do you sometimes think you may have said the wrong thing, or wish you were better at something? These are all symptoms of severe depression, an illness that effects nobody except you. It isn't normal to feel this way, and you probably are very ill.

        Depression is caused by neurochemical imbalances that result in you being a social outcast and a freak. But don't worry! Help is here! New Placeboflexin is designed to treat these symptoms, so you can resume your regular life. Ask your doctor if Placeboflexin is right for you.

        In clinical trials, subjects reported headache, dry mouth, and nausea in about the same proportions as those taking placebos. Placeboflexin might not be right for you. Ask your doctor.

      • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:19PM (#8289316) Journal
        If you've ever felt depressed, disappointed, been discouraged, or have in any way failed to any extent in any endeavor you have ever attempted, ask your doctor about Lobotomol.

        I... didn't... get...

        my... last... comment...

        modded... up...

        to... +5....

        I'm a... failure...

        will... Lobotomol (TM)

        help me?
      • Don't forget the extremely vague and universal symptoms listed in the advertisements

        And thats not even my favorite part... It's crazy how most of those ads show 'happy images' for like 60 seconds while listing off the potential side effects.
      • by bruthasj ( 175228 ) <bruthasj@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:32PM (#8289399) Homepage Journal
        Don't forget the extremely vague and universal symptoms listed in the advertisements:

        Please discontinue use if you have or will have the following side effects:

        Blood clots, coronary heart failure, tumors, deepened depression, leukemia, warts, common cold, severe vomiting, minor vomiting, toothaches, headaches, migraines, vision problems, ear ringing, hair loss, genetic mutations, muscle tension, athletes foot, jock itch ...
        • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:57PM (#8289909) Journal
          Actually, I talked with a friend who is interested in this. It turns out that this is why many ads make no medical claims --- just show pictues of happy people and then mention the medicine's name. It turns out that if you make *any* medical claims in an ad, you also have to mention the side effects. However, if you simply reference the medicine's name, you don't.

    • This is certainly true, and there are many instances of big pharma promoting drugs for unlicensed usage, or made up [bmjjournals.com] diseases [bmjjournals.com]

      The problem is not just big pharma per se, but also the way it funds special interest groups (e.g. Multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis) to campaign [bmjjournals.com] for wildly expensive drugs of dubious efficacy. This is the malignant end of astroturfing, and many of these supposedly educational sites have a message "this drug works and your doctor better give it to you".
      Unfortunately these sort of '
    • The wealth of information that is available on the internet is mind boggling to most, and I was not surprised to hear about this

      I just found out I suffer from slashdoticus postlotticus a rare disorder include me in your mailings for future medications. If and only if you're paying .10 for pill and charging me $10.00 thank you.

    • It's not so much that it's about diseases that most people haven't heard of. It's more that they're about diseases which are very similar to common maladies, although more intense. Migraines, acid reflux disease, depression, and social anxiety disorder are all "worse" forms of headaches, heartburn, sadness, and stress.

      I'm not saying that migraine, acid reflux disease, depression, and social anxiety disorder aren't serious diseases, but because of their similarities to far less serious but more common probl
  • mis-diagnosis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noelo ( 661375 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:56PM (#8289157)
    But sometimes doctors are wrong and mis-diagnose problems. If someone believes that they have a problem well then they can research it before looking for a second opinion
    • Re:mis-diagnosis (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fingers1122 ( 636011 )
      Ok, here's a question for you: Who do you think is better equipped to deal with medical problems? A doctor whose career consists of diagnosing and fixing health-related problems or Average Joe Hypochondriac with an Internet connection?

      For a second opinion, one should consult another doctor--not the Internet! The only use the Internet has in a situation like this is for researching information after one has received a formal diagnosis from a doctor. People without medical degrees should not go Willy Nilly,
      • Re:mis-diagnosis (Score:3, Interesting)

        by beeplet ( 735701 )
        I happen to think that being confined to my body 24/7 does in fact make me more qualified to identify problems than a doctor who askes two questions and takes my temperature. And yes, it is hard to find a doctor who has the time to do anything more than that. No doctor has ever told me something I didn't already know or even suggest originally suggest myself. If the internet makes information available to the "average Joe" I think it can only improve the quality of health care (not to mention the above-aver
    • Re:mis-diagnosis (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Amiga Lover ( 708890 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:22PM (#8289334)
      I tell you what though, this article could be me exactly. This post may sound like a joke but I'm laying out some of my personal life here, so you can all live with that.

      Probably in the last few years I've had anxiety related problems and occasionally look up information on the medication I'm on (I've been on a few types). It's not hard to sometimes get the symptoms from just something you read about.

      I had an ache down my left arm which in the end turned out to be from a pulled muscle that eased up, but I read all about heart attacks and convinced myself I was having one one night. Off to hospital in an ambulance all night to be checked and needled just to make sure. Everything was fine. Now I'm in the habit of rubbing my arm in that spot, and of course that triggers the nerve there which brings about chest pains, little stabbing pains in my back and side of my ribs.

      Of course then reading about heart attacks I came across information on why they're caused, one being blood clots in veins caused by sitting still, so now any ache in my legs I get guilty feelings of having clotting, then I'll get a twitch in my eye or head, and think "OMG IT'S A STROKE". It's freaking weird how carried away my mind can get.

      Looking at it logically, I visited my sister for a week, and forgot all about the problems, and the symptoms were gone. I came back home, no problems at all, then came across an old email from a heart attack forum. Suddenly my symptoms reappear!

      This must make it terrible for doctors, as just by reading about problems I've been tested for blood clots, heart irregularities and heart attacks, blood pressure and beating monitoring 24 hours a day, blood sugar and you name it it just goes on.

      I know most people don't have the tendency to anxiety and worry that I do, and really it's a middle sized problem in my life, but something I can mostly deal with and my doctor too, when there's nothing else on top, but with a large percentage of the population anxiety prone like me, and a large percentage of THOSE online, this has to be making some incredible extra work for doctors, while making them all the more skeptical of the genuine patients who do present with heart problems, etc.
  • by filtur ( 724994 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:56PM (#8289163) Homepage
    I come to Slashdot for my legal and health advice.
  • Ignorance is bliss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ghoser777 ( 113623 ) <[moc.cam] [ta] [abnerhaf]> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:57PM (#8289167) Homepage
    I guess Cypher was right. Although I guess imagine the analogous alternate story:

    "Because of the internet's recent collapse because of massive slashdotting, the whole world was left to wonder how they would ever find out how to get from their house to the nearest blockbuster without Mapquest or how to do a research project without Google."

    Perhaps people who can't handle too much information should stay away from the internet before they freak themselves out. One hundred years ago, someone could have written how a Library had the same effect, bringing all that information in one place to freak people out who are easily freaked out.

    Matt Fahrenbacher
  • by vicparedes ( 701354 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:57PM (#8289175)
    it is becoming very easy for the health-anxious to believe that they have a disease
    I'm beginning to think it's not physical health that North America should be worried about. It's people's heads that need to be examined.
  • by securitas ( 411694 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:58PM (#8289178) Homepage Journal

    You don't have to be a hypochondriac to experience it. It's also known as medical students' syndrome, where perfectly normal and reasonable medical students self-diagnose themselves with diseases and illnesses that they are studying about. It's also been known as psychology students' syndrome for obvious reasons.

    • by 0xfc ( 737668 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:13PM (#8289284)
      I was running healthd on my FreeBSD server. It reported my chip was running warm.

      I felt my forehead and yup, I had a temperature and fever.

    • by Moses Lawn ( 201138 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:30PM (#8289381)
      Too true there. When I was in college, I knew a number of psych majors. Every single one of them was - not nuts, but they had - issues. They would read about how the brain and psychological development processes work and apply that to themselves -- "Hey, *this* explains a lot. *That's* what goes on inside my head!" Then they get into the more advanced abnormal psych courses, and they really start to go off the end. All of a sudden they've figured out why they're so screwed up or why they can't keep a normal relationship. See, it's right in this book here.

      Mind you, this doesn't address the issue of whether they went into the field precisely because they wanted to figure out the mess, or if they were messed up before they started. But it seemed to be universal, and it brings up a lot of questions about the stability and effectiveness of a lot of the working shrinks out there.

      I guess the real problem is that if you apply theory to yourself, you have to be really careful to maintain some perspective, and not assume it all applies perfectly to you. And that's not easy, I can tell you.
  • Gloom and doom. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:58PM (#8289180) Journal

    It's easier to figure out you don't have a disease online than to be convinced you have one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:58PM (#8289183)
    Methinks yes. [theonion.com]
  • by LinuxBSDNotSCO ( 738941 ) <mgidding@gmail.com> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:59PM (#8289195) Homepage
    I see their point in the negitive side of online medical documentation but we must also see the benifit. Dr. Sam Gidding's papers on colesteral helped me lower mine with out having to spen hundreds of dollars on an RD. I see the negitives but I feel the positives greatly out weigh them.
  • by soapbox ( 695743 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @06:59PM (#8289196) Homepage
    Hey, information can be used in many ways. Providing it makes it easier for regular people to really learn, and for paranoiacs to dive deeper into their (mis)perceptions of ill physical health.

    On the other hand, with all we know, it's hard for any doctor to just say "you're fine!" and know that it's a fact. I'm sure many of us have had a problem (and please, let's not list them on /.) that either baffled a doctor or a series of doctors; perhaps some issues remain unresolved. But let's not shoot the messenger. Providing information about making bombs and providing information that drives hypochondriacs deeper into their sickness are the same thing.

    Most information is neutral--blame the users of that information.
  • So true.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    An office mate in his late 20's was always reading online about various things.. About a year ago he started having bad coughs. Looked it up online and said he had "Adult Onset Asthma." After a few weeks that self-diagnosis changed to "Walking Pneumonia." The last self-diagnosis was "Congestive Heart Failure" and he may need a heart transplant.

    I kid you not.

    So he finally
    Bottom line, all this sickness happened after a bad job review. Now he's on disability milking the system. That pisses me off as it mean
  • Stumping doctors too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mr100percent ( 57156 ) * on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:01PM (#8289210) Homepage Journal
    This sort of thing is stumping doctors.

    A patient walks in and immediately tells the doctor he thinks he has Berringer-Klopp syndrome. The doctor then excuses himself for a moment and has to dig up one of those rare diseases books. A few minutes later, he tells the man that he probably just has a case of warts.

    That's the problem with Medical school students as well; people will immediately think of the rarest diseases. It's probably just a cold or a early flu, but people suspect that they have a case of Tularemia. It's the equivalent of hearing hoofbeats and thinking that its Zebras.

  • by porky_pig_jr ( 129948 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:04PM (#8289222)
    a very well known and common symptom. before internet those affected just looked through the medical references ...
  • So I'm OK? (Score:2, Funny)

    by PhotoBoy ( 684898 )
    So this means my self diagnosis of having housemaid's knee is incorrect then?
  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:11PM (#8289264)
    I'll bet hypochondriacs do get ill more often than normal. When anyone gets sick, catches a disease or even thinks they have, they go and see their doctor or go to their hospital. That makes doctors waiting rooms and hospitals ideal exchange points for many many communicable diseases.

  • by gregwbrooks ( 512319 ) * <`gregb' `at' `west-third.com'> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:11PM (#8289270)
    When people aren't responsible for the true cost of their health care, there's little incentive not to investigate every ache and pain, real or imagined.

    I'm not saying insurance is a bad thing, but insurance that says "yes, you can have open heart surgery for $5" is going to affect patient behavior, no way around it.

  • Personally? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stradenko ( 160417 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:13PM (#8289283) Homepage
    I suffer from diabetes, hypochondria, narcisicm and schitzophrenia. I used to have breast cancer, ,but it got better.
  • File suit! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Garridan ( 597129 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:15PM (#8289293)
    Obviously, these health websites are doing nothing but aggravate hypochondriacs by adding stress to their lives. They should rally together, and file a class action lawsuit! It's the American Way!
  • by thecountryofmike ( 744040 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:19PM (#8289315)
    Sooner or later, the marketing guru's at Pfizer will figure out they can sell sugar pills to cure hypochondria.

    Wait, that's a GREAT idea! I need to become a marketing guru for Pfizer...

    oops, time for my soma...

  • Doctors (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AvengerXP ( 660081 ) <[ac.nossekcm] [t ... eb.siocnarfnaej]> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:20PM (#8289319)
    "Many continue poring through the easily available medical information even after their doctors have given them a clean bill of health."

    And they should, because doctors can't differenciate a Headache from Meningitis if they caught it contagiously and then they died from it. Seriously, a 2 minute talk with a doctor and i can get out of there with about any brand of pills i actually researched a little. For example.

    "Hey doc, i'm having panic attacks, do you think i should get Rivotril? My friend's friend used to have those, and she said it works well."

    "Sure, here have these, take X per X hours/days"

    "Thanks doc"

    2 minutes. Only 2. It's come more to social charisma contests than actual diagnostics. Not to mention about doctors who dont even try anymore. You have panic disorder? Try some Morphine.
  • by theCat ( 36907 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:24PM (#8289342) Journal
    There is no way to help the fearful. Unabated fear of disease or malformation is sort of a narcisistic thing; makes them feel special and the constant complaining is how they gather more attention to themselves than they would normally justify.

    I know, the hypochondriacs in the readership will say they have a special mental condition and need lifelong treatment, and there really is no cure. Well that just proves my point, doesn't it?

    As for the impact of Google on all this; I recently suffered some kind of respiratory impact, and after two weeks of coughing woke up in the night feeling I could not breath. A call to the hospital assured me that I was in grave danger and I should call emergency aid. After thinking on this and listening to my body a while I decided to tough it out, and finally slept the rest of the night. Later the next day I had an exam and x-rays, which x-rays came back abnormal (metastatic cancer indication) which I didn't buy at all because I didn't fit the profile for metastatic cancer. I Googled some things and based on sound evidence decided I had a rare respiratory fungus. More x-rays and some consultations and the doctor said that OK I didn't have cancer, and he didn't know what I had, and it might be a rare respiratory fungus (!) and he would need to cut my chest open to see, which would land me in the hospital for 3 days (at a time when I am needing to find a job). I declined, of course.

    Still have a cough of sorts, but getting better. I think the clue to health is to insist on being healthy despite the continued pressure to be otherwise. In this regard Google (and a clear head, and some experience working in a hospital X-ray lab) gave me the resources to stay on my feet at a time when I really needed to.

    Like every other kind of tool, using the Internet takes skill and sometimes courage. And no I still don't have a job, so every day still counts.
    • Yeah, but the people that don't survive the breathing difficulty don't post on Slashdot, so there's a big sampling bias. :)
    • There is no way to help the fearful. Unabated fear of disease or malformation is sort of a narcisistic thing; makes them feel special and the constant complaining is how they gather more attention to themselves than they would normally justify.

      That may be true about some people, but certainly not about all cases.

      As a sometime hypochondriac, the last thing I want to do is confide in anyone about my fear; I don't derive any pleasure, destructive or otherwise, from fearing that there's something wrong with

  • by Vincman ( 584156 ) < vincent.vanwyli ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:24PM (#8289346) Homepage
    Interesting that it comes up now, because after reading about Asperger Syndrome [udel.edu] in this Slashdot-article [slashdot.org] a few days ago, I actually went to an AS-support group and asked whether I had it. Embarrassing, I know. Luckily the people on the forum turned out to be quite friendly and as it turns out my symptoms are more related to a mild case of social phobia [socialanxi...titute.com].
    If something is wrong with a person, the internet can serve as a useful tool during the initial information-finding phase. The unguided nature of the internet does carry the risk of misidentifying or imagining diseases or conditions. It should therefore never be used as a substitute for professional help!
  • by no reason to be here ( 218628 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:25PM (#8289353) Homepage
    that people should get licenses to surf the web.
  • Newsflash! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dragoon412 ( 648209 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:29PM (#8289379)
    Late, breaking news:

    OCD sufferers report rise in symptoms due to abundance of light switches and sinks with soap nearby!

    In unrelated news, schizophrenic patient spends 4 hours yelling at convenience store security camera about CIA stealing his brain waves! ...really guys, this is less article-worthy and more "duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh" worthy. I've heard more insightful commentary from an empty bottle of Guinness.
  • Another trend... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MoreDruid ( 584251 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [diurderom]> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:34PM (#8289416) Homepage Journal
    Last year I went on a holiday and I scraped my knee on a rock with some algae on it. About a month later I had a rash on that same spot. I looked it up on the Internet, and I found that there were more general sites that had "information" about my rash than there were real medical sites. According to the popular sites I had all kinds of weird diseases. A short checkup on a real site (I thought a .edu carried a bit more weight than health.com) revealed that this was common among divers, and very easy to cure (rubbing the sore spot with baby-lotion).

    I think there's a wrong trend that sites that should not give this kind of information are the ones that are listed on top in a Google search. As usual on the internet, apply common sense first... but a lot of people read it, and if it's on a popular site... well, it must be true then of course. I did check with my uncle later on (he's a doctor) and he confirmed my research, diagnosis & cure. He also confirmed that the trend I noticed is a pain in the butt for most doctors, because a lot of people tend to think they have something dramatic (bragging rights on a tea party perhaps?) while they don't. He says consult times have a longer duration now because not only does he have to diagnose & write out a prescription if needed, but he also has to tell the patient his or her issue is not that grave.

    • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:48PM (#8289867) Journal
      I've found that doing a site search for site:.gov in Google is a good way of filtering out bullshit. The US government may be slow and inefficient, but they hold research that they publish to pretty tough standards. I was interested at one point in the benefits of having lights with similar spectral profiles to sunlight, as my room is windowless. A lot of vendors claim that it's tough to sync yourself to waking at particular times without *sunlight*, rather than just any kind of light. The current take the government has on it is that most of these claims are pretty much overblown.

      The government doesn't have everything out there, but when it does have studies, it usually puts them out there on the Internet, publically available. It's your money that paid for said tough standards and hours of someone shifting away bullshit. I'd suggest taking advantage of some of that.

  • by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:36PM (#8289423)
    It just contains pictures and information about what your body would look like and act like if it was normal. This means it has gross pictures of things that people would get alarmed at if they didn't know it was normal.

    Today's editorial: "That's not a wart."
  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:44PM (#8289476) Homepage Journal
    I among other people on rec.pets.cats.health+behav constantly tell people coming to us for advice to take their cat to the vet if the cat isn't peeing for a few days. I'd think that first person advice for ANY medicine is common sense.

    Besides, you can't make a diagnosis without seeing the problem for the most part, unless it's painfully obvious (Nail in the hand? Well, obviously you have a nail in your hand!).

  • by Timbotronic ( 717458 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:46PM (#8289490)
    In Australia last week, a naturopath was convicted for manslaughter after telling a couple who's baby had a heart defect that he was cured. They cancelled an operation that could have saved the kid and he died. More here [smh.com.au]

    IMO, misinformation is much worse than information overload. I know a few people who go to alternative therapists pretty much exclusively and get told an amazing load of bullshit. Sure, doctors don't have all the answers and their judgement is often skewed by the pharmaceutical industry peddling new expensive drugs. But I'll take their advice over the alternative snake oil salesmen any day.

    • The worst of it is that you *never* see people that just think that one particular form of alternative medicine might have some value, which would indicate that they're at least being rational. Say, maybe, acupuncture for pain relief. No, if acupuncture is useful, then they're certain that there has to be something in various herbal medicines and magnet healing has to also be useful.

      It's really amazing how fraud is illegal, but alternative medicine gets a special pass -- and medicine is an area where one
  • Thank you, Mr. Hume (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:55PM (#8289536)
    Since, according to modern European philosophy, we can't be sure of anything, and we should set aside reason in order to make room for faith, we're now reaping the benefits of implementing it. Who can know that you DONT have 'fybromyalgia' or 'chronic fatigue syndrome' or 'multiple chemical sensitivity' ? What if you FEEL that you have it, who is your doctor to tell you that you don't?

    Suggestion for the cave dwellers watching the shadow-play on the back wall - stay there, we don't need you.
  • New parents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @07:59PM (#8289558) Homepage Journal
    are the worst.
    When I was a new parent, i'd look stuff up online.
    Then there would be any thing from cold to certian and immediate death.

    Of course getting two different ways to trweat something fom two different peidotritians didn't help either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:06PM (#8289608)
    What concerns me about this article is that doctors' diagnoses are not always accurate or objective. Certain patient populations (ex. minorities, women, the poor) sometimes face preconceived notions (ex. that they are scrounging for unemployment benefits), or they try to take matters into their own hands because they do not have adequate access to the health care system. Emerging diseases, especially those that cause chronic symptoms that are not readily visible to others (ex. FMS, MS, ME, Gulf War illness) are commonly dismissed as psychosomatic until the body of medical research which shows otherwise becomes too large to ignore.

    In my own experience, an orthopedic surgeon--the only one my HMO would agree to cover at the time--dismissed my osteoarthritis as lack of exercise, poor posture, and worrying. He agreed that my hip was malformed, but told me that I would not need to see him for at least another twenty years, and then only as a precaution. I took his advice seriously, gritted my teeth and toughed it out; and if I had pain, I tried to exercise more. Ten years later, I was almost completely unable to walk, and the "new" doctors found that my hip socket was almost completely gone. I needed a total hip replacement with arthroplasty because I didn't have enough bone left to hold the implant. By this time, I couldn't hold down a job, and I had become such a pain-stressed freak that my family and social life was in ruins. I learned my lesson, and never again will I rely on a doctor to be my only or primary source of information.
  • by Von Helmet ( 727753 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:07PM (#8289611)

    This isn't exactly a new problem. People have books full of diseases and stuff that can convince them they're about to die.

    Loads of people in England have books like these [amazon.co.uk] which are ideal for the budding hypochondriac! A lot of them are full of flow charts that let you start out with a symptom and answer questions to find out what disease you've got. You can start out with a slight headache and be dying of diphtheria before you know it!

    So basically, the problem isn't really limited to the internet, but maybe it's easier to surf the net than to crack open a book when you feel ill.

  • by BW_Nuprin ( 633386 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:34PM (#8289770)
    I had a sore throat for two weeks, and of course, looking up "sore throat" and "two weeks" returns dozens of pages on throat cancer. Also, as it turns out, throat cancer is often mistaken for the common sore throat. That, and my dad's side of the family has a history of cancer (breast cancer in the females). So, immediately I was convinced that I was a dead man.

    When the doctor told me it was Mono, I threw both my hands in the air and said "ALRIGHT!"

    The doctor said that was the first time he's ever seen someone so excited to have Mono.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:59PM (#8289916) Journal
    I am tired of laws that try to protect idiots from themselves. We should let idiots be idiots. The problem is when we have to pay for their perpetual medical care when they F themselves up. We should stop doing that. If the doctor detects self-abuse, then kick them out and let them die the in street. Perhaps give them one warning. The second time they F up, boot them! If people want to take 100 viagra pills to impress their 18 year-old girl-friend, then it should be their problem. If their dick explodes, then let them live dickless.
  • by MoggyMania ( 688839 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:02PM (#8289935) Homepage Journal
    For people that do have rare disorders left undiagnosed, however, the Internet is an incredible boon.

    I discovered after 21 years of operations with organ difficulties of all kinds that my birth defects had a name, that there was a great support network online, and wonderful new treatments. Nobody had ever told me what it was, because doctors focused on one malfunctioning organ at a time. I only learned because I was bored one night and typed the name of a procedure into a search engine. I learned about a new operation in the discussion groups about two years later, went through 6 layers of doctors to convince my HMO to let me have it -- and now for the first time in my life, I can go away from my house overnight, I don't have to worry about medical mishaps, it's amazing! All because *I* looked up info on what I had, instead of relying on authority figures that (all the way until I reached a surgeon) had never even *heard* of what I needed.

    Similarly, it was a couple of years ago that I was searching for information on my delayed development/maturity and for the first time in my life found out what it was I'd had all along. I was skeptical at first, but I did fit the exact profile and asked others that were diagnosed in the online support community, eventually finding that I was more like them than anybody I'd ever met in real life. I've since been formally diagnosed, as has my partner (who went through the same self-dx process) though we learned in the process that the amount of ignorance in the psychology field when it comes to our neuro-issue is absolutely horrifying. This is after we'd each spent quite a bit of time being grossly misdiagnosed and drugged senseless based on that -- it was due to *our* research that we were finally given a diagnosis that made sense and were able to obtain guidance that improved our lives instead of making things worse.
  • it works both ways (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ajagci ( 737734 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:11PM (#8290271)
    I'm not sure what the article is implying. Are they saying that it would be better if people were medically ignorant so that they couldn't talk themselves into having horrible diseases?

    Sorry, but I don't buy that. People with anxiety disorders always could go to the library or worry about something else.

    But there is real and useful medical information on the Internet. If you worry about your risk of HIV after a sexual encounter, for example, you can find data quickly that lets you assess your risk rationally on the Internet, and that may well reduce more people's anxiety than increase it; in the past, you might have had to go to the library and go through stacks for many hours to find a simple answer, something most non-hypochondriacs would never have bothered with.

    Furthermore, doctors themselves are so prone to making mistakes that having access to such a wealth of medical information on the Internet can actually save your life. I think doctors are quite unhappy that they are losing the information monopoly they traditionally enjoyed. Patients are now questioning their judgement, pointing out their mistakes, and generally are more informed. Perhaps that is the real reason why the medical community keeps raising this non-issue.
  • And I live with one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mnemotronic ( 586021 ) <mnemotronic AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 16, 2004 @01:55AM (#8291475) Homepage Journal
    My fiancee has had, or currently has:
    • Lyme disease
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
    • Chemical hyper-sensitivity
    • Back problems
    • Neck problems

    Since she moved in with me (I have high speed internet), she has developed:

    • EMF sensitivity
    • Heel spurs

    The disease this week (which coincides with an article in some magazine):

    • Leaky Gut.

    All of these are real problems, with real discomfort, and real effects. Unfortunately, many do not have any concrete, widely accepted test, diagnosis, or treatment. Many also have more than their fair share of quack doctors who are entirely willing to try their pet theories on my lady as though she were some kind of lab rat with a blank checkbook.

    The web is an amazing resource, with more information and pseudo-cures than can be digested or tried by an army of sufferers. This also makes for self diagnosis gone amok.

    I really don't know where I'm going with this, except to underscore my extreme frustration with whaever it is she's got. I just hope it doesn't morph again next month.

  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Monday February 16, 2004 @06:27AM (#8292407)
    This is from a very funny book [forgottenfutures.com] written in the 19th century. In those days the Net equivalent was the library and the function of the banner ad was admirably filled by leaflets for patent medicine...

    I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch - hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into - some fearful, devastating scourge, I know - and, before I had glanced half down the list of "premonitory symptoms," it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

    I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever - read the symptoms - discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it - wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus's Dance - found, as I expected, that I had that too, - began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically - read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's knee.

    I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn't I got housemaid's knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid's knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.

    I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to "walk the hospitals," if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.

    Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had scarlet fever.

    I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.

    I went to my medical man. He is an old chum of mine, and feels my pulse, and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing, when I fancy I'm ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by going to him now. "What a doctor wants," I said, "is practice. He shall have me. He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen hundred of your
  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard.ecis@com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:57AM (#8302799) Homepage
    One simply has to use it with common sense.

    I had what was initially diagnosed as possible carpal tunnel syndrome. I'd heard plenty about the standard carpal release operation from people who'd had it. When I run across 3 out of 3 dissatisfied customers (YMMV, of course, this might be your best solution), I decided I'd better look into alternatives REAL fast.

    So I googled, and I found something. The something was on the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons site, for A new procedure to alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome uses a balloon catheter to stretch and expand the ligament and relieve pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel of the wrist. [aaos.org] It also mentioned a 95% customer satisfaction rate.

    Well, the chief of Orthopedic Surgery who was examining me was very interested, this was new at the time and new to him as well, and the URL was from a source he was extremely unlikely to dismiss, given that he was probably paying them membership dues.

    He referred me to a lab test, an EMG (electromyogram) checking nerve conductivity that showed I did not have carpal tunnel, and when the results came back, sent me to a physical therapist who essentially, taught me how to use my wrists and hands on the keyboard so as to reduce the specific actions that led to the problem. That was 8 years ago, and I've had no problems past minor wrist pain since then, and the use of ice several times and wrist braces once or twice took care of it.

    While this did not help me directly other than getting more respect and perhaps better care than I might have otherwise, I'm sure that any patient who the doctor might have considered standard carpal tunnel release surgery for was well served because the doctor knew of a less intrusive alternative.

    I think this is how doctor-patient interaction for the common purpose of getting fixed is supposed to work. Use common sense, listen to the doctor, and if you want him to listen to the information you've found, find sources he is unlikely to argue with because he, too regards them as authoritative..

    If he suggests alternatives to surgery or medication, LISTEN, this is his field of expertise. He'll probably listen to you if the question is Linux vs OpenBSD.

    You've got the time to google, use sources like Medline, etc. ... time a doctor frequently doesn't have. If you're here, you might be even better at using websearch and possibly even searching medical databases than she/he does. You can use this time to give a doctor information he doesn't have time to get. Your common purpose is getting your ass fixed.

    If you have a doctor that won't work with you towards this common goal, find another doctor.

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.