Dr. Internet will see you now

Posted on August 1, 2013

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PhotoCredits: Sudocrem.co.uk

Photocredits: Sudocrem

A few years ago, long before I became a pharmacist, I “dry-swallowed” two tablets of Ibuprofen to combat a slight headache. I also took them on an empty stomach while laying belly-up on the couch. Why not? The pill bottle was right there, I was way too engrossed in my TV show, and the fridge was an agonizing 10 steps away. Plus my saliva was good enough for lubrication anyway.

Needless to say, I found out the hard way that I should have embarked on that long and tedious journey to the kitchen. After falling asleep and waking up about an hour later, I had the most uncomfortable lump in my throat, kind of like I had a golf ball stuck there while wearing an imaginary turtleneck. My stomach also felt like I had ingested some battery acid.

According to Johns Hopkins, I had committed the major no-no of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) intake: DO NOT TAKE ON AN EMPTY STOMACH (and preferable in an upright position)

“Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) cause stomach upset, bleeding in the digestive tract, and ulcers in some people… because they disable the stomach’s protective mechanisms that shield it from the acidic juices used to digest foods…[therefore] when using these nonprescription NSAIDs, take them with meals and do not exceed the recommended dosage or duration of use listed on the label…”

In essence, what I DID NOT know was that the NSAID had caused acidic juices in my stomach to come back up through my esophagus which in turn caused an acid burn that resulted in the swelling of my throat. What I DID know was that this was the most uncomfortable feeling I had ever had. So I did what any other ‘logical’ teenager would have done at the time; I consulted ‘Dr Internet’. I powered on my computer and typed in ‘lump in throat’.

*Silence*

“Don’t freak out, don’t freak out, don’t freak out….okay FREAK OUT!!!!”

Photocredits:TwistedSifter

I was sweating bullets, having just been diagnosed by ‘Dr. Internet’ as having either throat cancer, thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism, supraventricular tachycardia or a host of other ailments of which there was little to no cure.

“WHY ME LAWD!!”

As a result of my inherited genes, I was of course well trained in the art of panicking and giving myself unnecessary anxiety attacks so I immediately started ‘googling’ survival rates of people with throat cancer, how many months they were usually given while also mentally giving away all my worldly belongings. My anxiety caused my mild headache to escalate into a super migraine, so bad that I had to miss a test the next day.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? I bet it does.

According to Pew Internet and American Life Project, 8 in 10 Internet users look online for health information. The study also reported that 52 percent of smartphone owners use apps to diagnose their symptoms, despite some claims that Internet self-diagnosis can be misguiding and inaccurate.

Don’t get me wrong, while the internet is a great resource – and websites such as WebMD, MedlinePlus etc. have made patients more informed and more involved in their own care, the negatives are also numerous. Improper diagnosis can cause patient stress, anxiety, cyberchondria (the unfounded concern over common symptoms based on online literature and research) and self-treatment that could lead to more problems. Furthermore, there is a plethora of bogus, sensationalized and unfiltered information out there in the World Wide Web. Some good questions to ask when looking up symptoms on a website are: Is it a credible website or affiliated with one? Does it quote research-based evidence? Is it written with bias? Do they provide their sources?

The internet should never replace seeing a healthcare professional who can give you an accurate and well informed diagnosis AFTER taking your personal history, signs, laboratory tests and a complete physical exam into account. A vague symptom such as headache can indicate multiple conditions, therefore as with most things, we must find the balance in our use of online symptom checkers. There is no such thing as too much information and while the internet is an excellent tool for education, professional medical help is still always the best option.

Therefore if you happen to experience a lump-like sensation in your throat, before you draft your will and check yourself into hospice-care due to the information you read online…please see your doctor.

P.S. – Yes, I did see a doctor and she had a good laugh at my expense, before sending me off with a prescription for famotidine.

Do you all have any interesting self-diagnosis stories? Have your fears ever been justified? Would love to hear your comments 🙂

SOCIAL MEDIA HUMOR ROUND-UP (Thanks to @buzzfeed, @rockingmytiara, @SadOchoCinco, @BrittaniBartok)

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PPS- Now clearing the cobwebs from this blog. Sorry for being away so long….life just sort of happened. Thanks to Luvvie for giving me a kick via her #31WriteNow blog challenge. Do subscribe for more updates!

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