Web diagnosis: healthy searching

From the ABC Health and Wellbeing , 18 March 2009:
David’s troubles began after a trip to the Middle East. It might have been the hefty dose of food poisoning he copped, or the fact he spent much of the trip lugging someone else’s heavy luggage. Either way, it did not come as a huge surprise that he developed a pain in his abdomen when he came home.
He was referred to a couple of gastroenterologists who, after numerous, apparently inconclusive investigations, diagnosed him with irritable bowel syndrome and recommended some dietary interventions.
Unfortunately, the doctors were wrong, and David, a 33-year-old environmental lawyer, suffered two years of often excruciating pain because it didn’t cross his mind that his doctors might have missed something.
In the end, an entry in a medical book caught his eye, prompting David to type ‘hernia’ into a search engine. “The symptoms matched it absolutely perfectly,” he says. “I went to local GP in Sydney, described the symptoms and said ‘I think I’ve got a hernia’.” The GP agreed, performed a simple on-the-spot test and confirmed the diagnosis within 60 seconds. Why was such a simple diagnosis missed? David thinks it may have been because he was being investigated by gastroenterologists, and “to a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
David is one of millions of Australians who use the internet to find health information. We use it to try and diagnose ourselves (with varying degrees of success), to learn more about a new diagnosis, to make contact with people who share our conditions, to understand a symptom that may not initially be worth visiting a doctor for, or just to keep ourselves that little bit more informed about the state of our bodies. Read more.

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