Ahem, excuse me, Dr. Google?

We’ve all been there. That moment when something’s not right with your body but you absolutely dread going to the doctor with it. We used to just hem and haw for a few days and hope, just maybe, it would just go away on its own. But not anymore. The first thing we do is pull up the internet and ask good old Dr. Google. The only problem with that is, by the time you get done with your research, you have now convinced yourself that it’s no longer a urinary tract infection. What you now have is definitely the most lethal stage of bladder cancer.


So why do we do it? Because we are much more willing to tell our most intimate details to our electronic devices over any friend, family member, and sometimes even our actual doctor. Statistics show that more than 72% of US adults are using the internet for medical advice, treatments, and drug information. Ultimately the majority of those are eventually following up with their practitioners after doing that research. So why do we still turn to the internet and subject ourselves to the, often unnecessary, worry?

In some cases, this frequent searching can even become an addiction. There’s actually a disorder that can be initiated by these frequent medical symptom searches. It’s called hypochondriasis, also known as hypochondria or illness anxiety disorder. Often times the internet is not as good a friend as we think it is. Medical websites often give you all of the potential outcomes of a minor symptom, many of which are not likely to occur at all. Sometimes these tools can be helpful, but it’s important to take it for what it is – the internet – and remind yourself it’s always better to seek actual medical advice.

The good news is that this internet dependency has produced a new research method for the medical world. A recent research study, done at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, on adolescent puberty patterns was struggling to find ways to communicate with young girls when it came to their bodies. The focus of the study was to connect menstrual cycle patterns to diseases developed later in life. What these researchers found was that the girls in the study were much more willing to share personal information and period patterns with a cell phone app than they were with anyone else. And with that, more and more studies are being done through cell phone apps and programs than ever before. The major benefit is that the information is more accurate, timelier, and thus more reliable when done this way.

So the next time you turn to Dr. Google for the answer to a medical question, consider not only that the answer you get may or may not be the real truth, but that the information you are getting can lead you to a whole heap of anxiety that you probably don’t need. If you do like the anonymity of the internet, then perhaps consider participating in one of the apps, like Clue, that tracks your data and uses it for research.

We understand that it’s not always easy to talk about symptoms…but we’re here for you. You can always call our nurse line in the Platteville Clinic at 348-4330 or anytime to the Hospital Nurse Supervisor at 342-0965. Always dial 911 in an emergency. You can also access your primary care provider, health records, and more at southwesthealth.org/mychart.

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