Don't become a cyberchondriac -

Are you a cyberchondriac?

For years, Jamie Tarence and her husband were trying to start a family. Despite going to fertility specialists, nothing was happening. Then, she heard about a doctor in another state and started checking him out on the internet.

"You have to be your own advocate. And you have to dig and search and find that information and try to work with your physician," said Tarence. "And, if not, you may have to make other choices."

The result of that work? Her 14-year-old twins.

Jamie's story has a happy ending. 

In his own medical practice, Dr. Mike Vaughn has also seen the benefits of patients doing their own research.

One had seen several other doctors, but nobody could figure out what was wrong. Vaughn didn't see an obvious answer either and asked the patient, "What do you think it is?"

Vaughn says, "She said 'I'm glad you asked. I've spent the last year looking on the internet trying to figure out what's wrong with me.' And she said, 'I think I have lupus.'"

Vaughn said the symptoms could add up to that, so he ordered the test for lupus and it turned out she had lupus.

But he also sees the downsides to self-diagnosis.  

For example, if you research headaches, eventually you'll see that one cause could be brain cancer. You could worry yourself sick about things that are almost certainly not what you have.

Cyberchondriacs can demand their doctors give them tests, treatments or drugs that are not indicated and not cheap.

"There's so much information out there on the internet and some of it is not good," adds Vaughn.

In addition, there is some misinformation. The internet is a great resource, but it's also a public forum where anybody can make a claim. If you find information that's relevant to your symptoms, take time to investigate to make sure the source is reliable.

The last thing you want to do is let the internet turn you into a cyberchondriac.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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