Online STD Diagnostics: A Dangerous New Trend

The phenomenon of online diagnostics is getting stronger by the day. Every single cough or sniffle has people going over to the Google search and attempting to find out more about the symptoms. When it comes to serious conditions like sexually transmitted infections, however, the online diagnostic process can definitely do more harm than good.

Diagnosing Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia on Reddit?

Head over to Reddit – the place where you will find information about almost every question under the sun. It also happens to be the place where most people inquire about some of the common STIs like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis.

A new study published in the reputable Journal of the American Medical Association is suggesting that more and more people are turning to Reddit with questions about STIs instead of visiting their doctor.

There’s another very troublesome phenomenon – people turning to Reddit and other online forums after going to the doctor and not being satisfied with the diagnosis that they’d gotten.

The research was conducted between November 2010 and February 2019. Analysts from UC San Diego in California went through the Reddit r/STD board, specifically searching for questions and people attempting to diagnose their STD online.

Some of the research findings were pretty shocking.

For a start, it became clear that questions about STIs nearly doubled in November 2018 in comparison to previous periods. Of all the people who published on the board mentioned above, 58 per cent specifically asked for help with the diagnosis of an STI. Of these 58 per cent, 30 per cent posted images and additional information to get a better “diagnosis” from their online peers.

Of all diagnostic requests, 87 per cent got a reply and it typically took Reddit users a very short amount of time to come up with a conclusion about the specifics of the condition. The median amount of time to get a Reddit STI diagnosis was tree hours.

Why Has the Trend Become So Popular?

The results of the experiment are both shocking and far from surprising at the same time. Researchers who worked on the Reddit analysis have reached an array of conclusions as to why people are turning to online communities for important health information.

Dr. John W. Ayers, one of the study co-authors, said that a Reddit diagnosis is quick and painless. It doesn’t necessitate time or financial resources to happen. As per the study authors, people are also likely to turn to online diagnostics due to the shame they may feel about getting diagnosed with an STI.

While societies have moved forward in terms of awareness, there is still a significant stigma attached to sexually transmitted infections. This stigma is one of the reasons why many people will refrain from seeing a doctor, even when they start experiencing troublesome symptoms.

Why the Online Diagnostic Trend Is So Dangerous

Getting your STI diagnosis online is dangerous for more than one reason.

For a start, we live in a world that’s characterised by an all-time high in the realm of STI diagnoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis have never affected a bigger number of people than now.

When left untreated or when it isn’t diagnosed properly, a sexually transmitted infection can have major consequences. Some of these, like infertility, will last a lifetime. The more time a person takes to see a doctor, get tested and get a treatment, the more complex the recovery process is going to become.

Since the internet is giving people some perceived certainty in knowing what is wrong with them, they’re postponing a visit to the doctor.

And needless to say, online crowd diagnosis is very often wrong.

Even when pictures are being provided, it’s very difficult for someone who isn’t a trained professional to reach a valid conclusion. Many STIs present themselves in the exact same ways. Their symptoms could also be similar to the symptoms of other conditions like urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis.

While the symptoms can overlap, the treatment for each STI is very specific and unique in an attempt to target the causative agent of the respective medical problem.

There is one more big danger linked to crowd diagnosis. Unless they see a medical professional, people cannot get a prescription for the antibiotics and other specialised treatments for STIs. Hence, many of those seeking assistance on Reddit opt for DIY and natural remedies. Unfortunately, apple cider vinegar and herbs are not effective options for the treatment of serious medical problems like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis. Some of the home remedies could produce symptom relief but they are not going to target the bacterium or virus causing the condition.

Untreated STIs also increase a person’s risk of becoming HIV positive through unprotected contact. Needless to say, there is also the risk of passing the untreated infection on to a sexual partner.

If You Feel That Something’s Wrong, Don’t Rely on the Internet

Anonymity and speed are definitely big advantages when it comes to the treatment of medical problems. These advantages, however, can come at a significant cost.

Getting tested for STDs doesn’t have to be a shameful, embarrassing or costly process. Many entities in Singapore offer such reliable and accurate testing options. Shim Clinic is a STD clinic where you can visit to get tested and to also have your questions about common STIs answered.

Visiting an actual STD clinic is the responsible thing to do. Most STIs today can be treated and the sooner you get started with the process, the easier the treatment is going to be.

If you have questions about STI testing and treatments, contact us today or visit Shim Clinic during our working hours. We will do our best to answer all of your questions and give you peace of mind