Find Out About Symptom Checkers
A symptom checker is an online resource that uses a computerized algorithm to determine potential illnesses or diseases that an individual may be afflicted with based upon a series of questions about symptoms. In recent years, these programs have become more popular and more widely offered in order to offer further information about current or potential conditions.
The self-diagnosis that these checkers can assist consumers in reaching can, at times, help consumers inform their physicians about possible conditions and the symptoms they are experiencing. In some cases, the results of one of these programs may assist a physician in identifying (or ruling out) potential medical conditions. However, there are some drawbacks to online diagnoses apps that users should be aware of.
What is a symptom checker?
A symptom check is an online application. Popular symptom checkers include but are not limited to:
- WebMD Symptom Checker.
- Mayo Clinic Symptom Checker.
- Healthline Symptom Checker.
When you check symptoms using one of these programs, you will be asked several questions related to you and the symptoms you are experiencing, including your gender and your age, in order to narrow down your results. Depending on the program that you use, you may also be asked whether or not you are pregnant, your current medications and a list of your past or current medical conditions. After completing your individual questionnaire, you will be given a list of medical conditions that match the information that you provided.
Each condition that the symptom checker provides will include additional information about that condition, including details about what the condition is, how common it is, treatment options and the most common symptoms associated with the condition. You will also be able to see which symptoms, medications or history details that you provided contributed to each result and how much a condition matches your symptoms.
Learn About the Benefits of a Symptom Checker
You can check symptoms online to obtain more information about medical conditions that you already have or that you may be afflicted with based upon your symptoms, physical characteristics and medical history. Most of these programs will readily inform you that the checker is not meant to override any medical advice that you may have been offered by your doctor and that only your doctor can confirm and properly diagnose a medical condition.
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Symptom checkers are incredibly easy to use and offer a convenient and anonymous way for a person to view any type of symptoms they may be experiencing or further information about any conditions that they already have. This can assist an individual with speaking to their doctor about potential conditions as well as provide more specific examples of symptoms that they may be experiencing.
If researching a condition that has already been diagnosed, home treatment options may offer a better variety of available treatments or medications to speak with a physician about. For example, if you review the condition, “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” (IBS), you will likely find information regarding dietary changes probiotics, fiber supplements and foods to avoid. This information may be able to help an afflicted person alleviate their symptoms.
In addition to providing information on a variety of condition, symptom checkers generally notify a user if a symptom they are describing requires immediate medical attention, such as chest pains or uncontrollable bleeding. This can assist users in knowing when to seek medical attention immediately, potentially saving lives or reducing the risk of further or worsening medical conditions.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Symptom Checker?
While the WebMD symptom checker and other checkers like it offer several benefits, these programs are not without their drawbacks and potential disadvantages. Self-diagnosis without any input from an actual physician can not only lead to misdiagnosis, but to an increase in anxiety. This is due to the fact that many may become fixated on certain conditions that are offered as possibilities due to previous assumptions or the potential devastation that some medical conditions may cause. In this way, checkers can quickly get out of hand.
No two symptom checkers are the same. Some checkers, such as the WebMD symptom checker, have been around for a longer period of time and have a higher accuracy in comparison to newer checkers. In fact, a recent study in Britain showed that 47 percent of the surveyed public had searched online for their symptoms prior to seeing a doctor, but that only one in five had even challenged their doctor’s diagnosis.
Condition results may also be flawed based upon the information that you provided about your symptoms. For example, a majority of checkers ask about the type of pain or chronic pain that a person experiences. Depending on your symptoms, you may be asked if your pain is ‘dull and achy’, ‘stabbing’ or ‘sharp’. Suddenly, you may realize, that sharp and stabbing pain are not the same type of pain. If asked to rate the level of pain you are in, you may also find it difficult to do so in an objective way.
When to Consult Your Doctor
While symptom checkers can offer numerous benefits and advantages, it is important to remember that these programs cannot provide a diagnosis and that you may not be receiving accurate information. While checkers can be beneficial to use, these programs should never replace the advice that is given to you by your doctor, nor should a checker diagnosis be taken as fact.
Rather than self-diagnose, it is important to speak with your doctor about any health concerns that you have or symptoms that you may be experiencing. Additionally, if you have a medical condition and you are seeking additional treatment options, it is best to speak with your doctor about other options that may be available to you.
That being said, symptom checkers can still be a valuable tool to explore additional possibilities, especially if your doctor has had trouble diagnosing a condition that you have been experiencing. At the very least, your doctor may be able to confirm or rule out the potential conditions that you were shown as a result of the checker.
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