Online self-diagnosis poses a health risk

January 4th, 2011 - 4:36 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 4 (IANS) People relying on medical websites are risking their health because many fail to check whether the information online is factually correct.

Record numbers are expected to log on for health advice this week, with British health sites likely to receive 40 million hits, according to Bupa Health.

The Bupa Health Pulse survey, which questioned over 12,000 people around the world, found that 73 percent of Britons went online for health information, 64 percent looked for information about medicines and 58 percent to self-diagnose.

However, only 25 percent bothered to check where the information had come from, the Telegraph reports.

Advocates of using the internet to find out about health problems say it has given people far more power in the doctor-patient relationship, which they say used to be too reverential.

But this new survey suggests that many risk being misled by inaccurate information, potentially putting themselves at risk.

The study found a myriad of potential health conditions for common complaints, depending on the websites visited.

For example, one suggested pins and needles was caused by a Vitamin B12 deficiency, another that it was a sign of sciatica, and a third that it was symptomatic of Multiple Sclerosis.

Stomach cramps were diagnosed as symptomatic of either indigestion, appendicitis or angina.

Annabel Bentley, medical director of Bupa Health and Wellbeing, warned: “Relying on dodgy information can easily lead to people taking risks with inappropriate tests and treatments, wasting money and causing unnecessary worry.”

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said: “The internet can be a fantastic source of health information, but does need to be used very selectively.”

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