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Excessive online investigation may lead to ‘cyberchondria’

Dr. Yashar Acting CEO and MD of Canadian Specialist Hospital copy

Sunaina Rana / Emirates Business

Are you turning to internet for diagnosis to small health problems instead of a certified doctor? You might want to think again. It has been witnessed that this phenomenon of a click, can turn out to be more dangerous than you think. Canadian Specialist Hospitals (CSH), Dubai, recently voiced its concern over the prevailing cyberchondria. The information provided on the internet might not always be 100 percent
accurate, which can lead to additional health hazards.
One may find it convenient to just find the answer at the clip of a finger, but this health information available on the web may lead to further complications. Excessive online investigation may lead to ‘cyberchondria’, an obsessive behaviour pattern characterized by browsing the web for illnesses one might have.
Dr Yashar Ali, acting CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Canadian Specialist Hospital (CSH), stated that this problem surfaces among numerous internet users in the UAE. The easy fashion of consulting the web for possible medications or diagnosis based on symptoms can further lead to anxiety and stress. Elaborating on the true meaning of the problem, he said, “cyberchondria is
derived from hyperchondria, the chronic anxiety over one’s health condition. Cyberchondria, however, raises concern as a person relies on the web for self-diagnosis and self-medication instead of visiting a professional for proper health consultation.”
According to Ali, there are patients who underwent self-medication or self-diagnosis, under the guidance of online information without consulting a
certified physician. “It is important to educate the patients of the risk they are taking by trusting on a source that is not authenticated or accountable for their advice,” says Dr Ali.
Dr Ali added, “majority of UAE residents utilize the internet to gather information on health: symptoms and medications. Some results on the internet could lead to worse health conditions than the actual condition, which leads to cyberchondria. The UAE has strategically-located healthcare centers and hospitals where residents can schedule check-ups with the doctors.”
“There is a possibility that few online remedies may work like for instance flu, but self-diagnosis in the face of much more serious symptoms is dangerous. Moreover, it can turn critical if the patient is a child or the elderly. More often than not, simple illnesses searched on the internet can lead to medical results that are worse than the actual conditions. You can educate yourself about different diseases on the web, but one still need to visit your doctor for medications, tests and accurate diagnosis,” added Dr Ali.
“We might think that a simple search on the web is harmless but misdiagnosis and improper handling of information we gather on the web could lead to something worse. Cyberchondria leads to psychological conditions like stress and anxiety, as the patient has a perception that his condition is worse than the reality. The stress and anxiety could lead to self-diagnosis and self-medication, and some pharmaceutical drugs have side effects if taken without the doctor’s prescription,” said Dr Ali.

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