With the Internet at your fingertips, it’s easier now than ever to self-diagnose your skin conditions. Whether it’s something as simple as dry skin or something more complicated like an allergic reaction, you can type your symptoms into Google and find an answer quicker than asking your doctor.
But this can be extremely dangerous.
The fact is that the answer you come up with in your research isn’t always going to be the right one. If diagnosed and treated incorrectly, things could get worse, not to mention that no online source can tell you what treatment is right for your unique situation and skin type.
Before you give yourself a diagnosis, consider these dangers of self-diagnosing.
It’s Difficult to See Subtle Cues Without Training
Self-diagnosing can be dangerous for the simple fact that the average person doesn’t have the training to recognize subtle differences in various conditions. That means there’s a good chance that you’re missing something you can’t see—both in a physical and more subtle sense. Consulting with a dermatologist who has experience and training in diagnosing skin conditions puts you in a better place to trust your diagnosis and receive the proper treatment.
It’s Hard to Assess Your Condition’s Severity on Your Own
Another danger of self-diagnosis is that you may over- or under-estimate how bad your condition is. Online, you’ll see pictures and hear words like “moderate” and “severe,” but unless you have experience assessing conditions like this, you don’t always know where you fall on the spectrum.
Not only can your doctor assess this from a clinical standpoint, but visiting your doctor also gives you a two-way means of communication that will allow you to discuss the condition’s progression, any pain you’re experiencing, etc. so your doctor can better assess the condition.
Online Sources Aren’t Always Trustworthy
Self-diagnosing also poses a risk because there are a myriad of untrustworthy sources across the Internet. Yes, you can find reputable scientific studies online and photographs of symptoms from doctors, but these sources can easily be overshadowed by blog posts and articles written by people with no medical training, which is disconcerting considering some of these people are self-diagnosing themselves with the wrong conditions.
That’s not to say every article that isn’t a scientific study is wrong. It’s just very important to be wary of your sources. As Pew Research found, most people are looking in the wrong spot. Seventy-two percent of people search health information online. Of these people, only 13 percent start their search on a website that specializes in health, but even then, some of these health-based sites may not be trustworthy sources.
Self-Diagnosing Has its Limitations
While you can gather plenty of information from educated, licensed professionals on the Internet, you can’t get someone to thoroughly investigate your skin issues online. Having someone in-person to diagnose your condition makes it much less likely that you’ll walk away with the wrong diagnosis.
The simple fact of the matter is that self-diagnosing based on what you find online takes the personal factor out of the equation, limiting effectiveness. No online article is going to be able to assess your personal situation, but your dermatologist can.
While some self-diagnoses for common conditions are spot-on, that doesn’t change that self-diagnosing can be extremely dangerous. If you do leave the doctor’s office with the same diagnosis you gave yourself, then be thankful you didn’t receive unexpected news. But the chance that your doctor notices something you didn’t makes visiting your doctor a vital step in diagnosing your skin issues.
Researching information about your skin condition online is not bad or wrong. With the right sources, you can learn a lot about health. However, online research should not stand alone. Educate yourself, but don’t be so quick to diagnose your condition without getting a medical opinion first.