Monday, January 19, 2009

Medical Quackery - Cyberchondriacs

Stumbled across an old, but interesting post. Excerpt below:

"Experts warn there is a great deal of false and misleading information on the Internet. That’s true – I learned the hard way that eating a bucket of chocolate pudding doesn’t alleviate a headache.

But, for me, the outright quackery was far less damaging than the cold, hard, accurate facts. There is no more devastating statistic than a Survival Rate. That number rattles around your brain like it’s the solution to an equation that could save your life. You massage it, you toy with it… “If 75.2% survive, that means 24.8% don’t… and if 24.8% don’t that means almost 1 in 4…” There’s no better, darker way to learn math."

All to often in practice you get patients who come in and tell YOU what they have. They Google'd it and now know that they have some bacterial infection, or rare intestinal disease or worse. They want "augmentin" or something else they read up about... You smile as a doctor, say you just need to check, only to find out that they have a simple cold, or a viral gastro and nothing more..

Just try and Google the symptoms for Inflammatory bowel disease and I bet most of you will think that you have it...


The lesson is this. We study for more than 6 years to DISTINGUISH symptoms and diseases. Anybody can read medical textbooks or google symptoms and will think they have the answer, but medical school teaches you how to work out what is a headache and what is a brain tumour.

Clinical examination is important. You'd be suprised to know what I can diagnose the way you walk into the room, or by simply looking at the back of your eye (and you would laugh at the amount of information we get out of a touch-your-nose-then-my-finger neurological examination).

Ah... sometimes I miss clinical medicine... but only sometimes...

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