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How to Diagnose Yourself Using the Internet


Updated February 12, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Setting the Stage for Self-Diagnosis Using the Internet

If you've decided you want to diagnose yourself, then your reason may be one of the following:

  • You may be trying to avoid seeing a doctor until you know you really need to see a doctor.

  • You may be fearful of what your symptoms suggest and want a better handle on the possibilities before you see your doctor.

  • You may have already visited your doctor but you have some reason to believe her suggestions are incorrect, or need refinement.

Whatever your reason for wanting to diagnose yourself, there are a few points to consider before you get started:

  1. I am alive today because I used the internet to explore and determine my diagnosis. Had I not dissected everything I knew about my medical condition, eventually realizing the diagnosis I was given was wrong, I might have undergone needless chemotherapy. Therefore, I am a firm believer that arming yourself with as much knowledge about your diagnosis as possible is an important part of your medical journey.

  2. No matter how successful you are in determining your diagnosis using the Internet, the library, or any other method, you must still collaborate with a medical professional (your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician's assistant). You may be trying to avoid your doctor, but only your doctor can help to confirm or refute your findings, and/or prescribe medical treatment.

  3. In this brave new world of self-diagnosis, be aware that you may be putting yourself at risk in at least three ways:

    • If you are wrong, and you choose to postpone seeing your doctor, your mistake may cost you life or quality-of-life saving time or treatment or both.

    • If you depend on unreliable or non-credible websites to help you determine your diagnosis, you may be putting life and limb in jeopardy.

    • If you use your knowledge to make your doctor angry, he or she may be unwilling to work with you.

With those thoughts in mind, here are the steps to take to diagnose yourself using the Internet:

  1. Understand your goal: differential diagnosis
  2. Make your list of possibilities
  3. Use the process of elimination to narrow down the choices
  4. Visit your doctor and complete the process.

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