The Dangers of Internet Self-Diagnosis

Danger sign

With health care costs rising globally, a growing number of people are seeking less expensive alternatives online to help fend off large medical bills. So it is not surprising that many are turning to various websites to self-diagnose everything from a simple allergy to cancer.

Thinking that self-diagnosis is without any risk is dangerous and misleading. Any number of problems can arise. Let’s take a look at some of the hazards of diagnosing yourself online.


Self-diagnosis over the internet can be very confusing. There is a reason doctors make the big bucks. For example, there are literally hundreds of health conditions sharing a number of very similar symptoms. Nausea is one common symptom of many health problems, including drug overdose, motion sickness, food poisoning, emotional distress, stomach flu, ulcers, and many forms of cancer.

Only a complete examination by a trained doctor can help your learn about your condition. It is also true that health symptoms can vary from individual to individual. For a given symptom, what you see at a medical website are usually the most typical symptoms. But odds are good you may experience completely different symptoms. As a result, your self-diagnosis can result in two things: unwarranted stress and anxiety or no serious problem.

Unwarranted Anxiety

Because online self-diagnosis can result in a misdiagnosis, it can cause worry that is completely unnecessary. For example, you may enter “abdominal pain” as your symptom, returning over 150 possible causes, such as pancreatic cancer. The problem could be as simple as gastrointestinal upset. So a misdiagnosis can actually worry you sick.


Another danger of online self-diagnosis is the risk of becoming the victim of misinformation or quackery. There are thousands and thousands of websites providing health information online. It can be very hard to ensure the information you are getting is accurate because misinformation is prevalent on the internet.

Many websites are also making money selling health products with dubious or even dangerous contents. Diagnosing yourself and going one step further into actually treating yourself could prove dangerous, even fatal in some cases.

Proper Use

The internet is an invaluable source of information and entertainment in a wide range of areas. You should use it to better understand your condition, and discuss what you find with your doctor. If you are seeking more information online, stick to trustworthy non-profit, government, and educational sites run by trained medical personnel.

Eric Vainer is the Chairman of Dear Feet and the Director of Pala Community Care. Vainer is an expert on corporate culture and a heralded entrepreneur from New York.


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