Web Sickness

Friday, November 13, 2009

Transcript

Cyberchondria refers to the practice of using Internet search engines to wrongly diagnose oneself with serious illnesses. Carolyn Butler, columnist for The Washington Post, talks about how cyberchondria came to be and she discusses her own bout with the dread disease.

Comments [8]

Drew

I love On The Media because it tries to identify the problems with information delivery rather than the information itself. I felt that in stating that Google may be hurting people by allowing them access to medical information really missed the mark. In focusing on the way that people are using information, rather than the way that the information is presented and/or the bias in what information people get access to, this story failed to provide the quality insights that I generally expect from On The Media. Couldn't the underlying problem be that existing medical web-sites treat all sickness equally, rather than providing the chances that you have a life threatening disorder given that you came to the site suffering from a sore throat?

Nov. 24 2009 01:32 PM
Drew

I love On The Media because it tries to identify the problems with information delivery rather than the information itself. I felt that in stating that Google may be hurting people by allowing them access to medical information really missed the mark. In focusing on the way that people are using information, rather than the way that the information is presented and/or the bias in what information people get access to, this story failed to provide the quality insights that I generally expect from On The Media. Couldn't the underlying problem be that existing medical web-sites treat all sickness equally, rather than providing the chances that you have a life threatening disorder given that you came to the site suffering from a sore throat?

Nov. 24 2009 01:30 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven

I tended to think that my elder brother was a cyberchondriac until he assisted in the diagnosis and finding a safer, less invasive treatment for a hearing problem he had detected, called ironically a cyberknife. Now, he's hep on having me find out if the priest who administered Last Rites to our mother was onto something about treating my MS, an endovascular treatment devised by an Italian doctor named Zamboni. He hopes it will be clear skating from there.

Nov. 20 2009 09:44 AM
Dr. Cunnigham

This article is absurd and lacks a base. I as a Doctor, highly reccomened self-help and the use of Google.

Nov. 17 2009 06:12 AM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan Upper West Side

Budding cyberchondriacs do not need to wait for symptoms to surface. They need only hunker down with Gene Weingarten's "Hypochrondriac's Guide to Life and Death," a compendium of minor symptoms that are early indicators of catastrophic illness. It's also a great resource for office conversation when someone mentions a little twitch they got last night.

Nov. 15 2009 03:31 PM
anon

Actually the same is true with reading newspapers and listening to NPR or watching the news.

Too much news makes people hyperallert to all sorts of bogus, hyped issues that usually serve to fill someone's agenda, and that take away from me being with my family, working, being with my dog, or creating my Jame Gumb monument.

It's because of this that I've stopped donating to NPR, because I don't want to have such issues caused by having too much information.

Nov. 15 2009 03:27 PM
Terri from Boston, MA

Your story got me quite mad, it was so one sided. Researching health information online saved my sight.

Without being able to find information online, I would have had to rely on doctors who kept telling me that my symptoms were "just stress". But because of the information I found online, I knew to keep pushing until I saw an endocrinologist. He gave me an MRI - which he didn't think I needed but set up just in case - a tumor was found on my pituitary gland. The type of tumor I had was benign, but it did require surgery to remove. My life wasn't at risk, but my eyesight was. The longer I waited the more likely I would have suffered permanent damage to the optic nerve.

Typically, I look things up to put my fears to rest. The answer: "Oh, this is a common symptom and usually goes away on it's own". Is the usual result of my researching, at which point I don't have to bother a doctor. But in some cases online health information can alert you to something that requires a closer look.

Letting doctors off the hook and allowing them to brush off 'annoying' people with internet research in hand is not helpful.

Nov. 15 2009 01:49 PM
geo8rge from Brooklyn NY

I once felt a pain in my throat. It felt like something the size of a grape seed was logged there. Checking google it said wait 2 weeks and see if it goes away, then call 911. It kept getting worse. From grape seed, to pea, to grape. More googling I discovered some message board posts about the rather awful Tonsillolith which is like a zit that forms on your tonsill. I was able to pluck the disgusting pea shaped bugger out with my index finger and the pain went away instantly. No Doctor needed for a problem that did not require an A in both semesters of Organic Chemistry with lab.

As far as the intrepid reporters eye twitch, I think if she tried harder she could have figured it out herself. It's all there, and even message boards to post on.

Perhaps there could be trained googlers at pharmacies to help people with their minor medical problems that are caused more from ignorance than disease?

Nov. 15 2009 11:27 AM

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