Self-diagnosis is damaging peoples’ health – RPS

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Royal Pharmaceutical Society national survey reveals that over half (51%) of British adults self-diagnose.Worryingly, more than two in five (43%) admitted they have used pain relief medication not prescribed for them after self-diagnosing.

Of those surveyed, over three quarters (78%) have sought medical advice from the internet when they required a diagnosis, whilst 10% have used a health app.

The growing trend of DIY diagnosis could lead to patients receiving the wrong treatment or buying drugs that could harm them, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said.

“DIY diagnosis can be downright dangerous. You could be missing something a pharmacist or doctor would know was important. While there are good online sites, there’s an awful lot of nonsense out there too,” said Neal Patel, head of corporate communications at the society said.

According to the report, the warning has been prompted by the growing use of online information, symptom checkers and health apps for advice about ailments. “There are significant risks with self-diagnosis. These include reading misleading information online and thinking you have a different problem to the one you actually have,” the society said. “This in turn can lead to people buying the wrong over-the-counter medicines, which then fail to treat the problem or even make it worse.”

The report says it is also alarmed by the apparent readiness of people to decide what drugs they need and to use friends’ or relatives’ medication without getting professional medical advice.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency advises patients never to share with others drugs they have been prescribed.

Zafar Khan, a London-based community pharmacist, said patients commonly asked pharmacists to sell them medication to treat an allergy when in fact they had something more serious wrong with them, such as shingles. He also said the growing number of people with diabetes should be careful about using sugar-coated tablets.

The report said the UK’s Department of Health backed the RPS’s plea for patients to seek advice from a trained health professional rather than the internet or friends.

The Guardian report

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