Turning to Google and interactive diagnostic apps for answers concerning your eye condition raises concerns because it can lead you to wrongly diagnose your symptoms and start the wrong treatment or delay the right treatment. Inaccurate/delayed diagnosis and treatment of some eye conditions (for instance glaucoma and eye infections) can lead to vision loss.
Is Google, however, that bad for seeking information on an eye condition? In my opinion, it isn’t. It all depends on how you use it.
If you have an eye condition, especially a chronic one, having correct knowledge about the condition and applying it is important for maintaining/improving your vision. This knowledge can be acquired through Google if sought the right way.
Here are some tips on how to use Google to your advantage:
- At the onset, use it as an information-gathering tool and not a diagnostic tool: If you have eye symptoms you are concerned enough to Google, understand that what you find may not be reliable or conclusive. Therefore, you should never draw conclusions based on the information you get. Just read about your symptoms and note down the questions to ask your eye doctor. This can help you become more informed and able to actively participate in your care at your eye doctor’s office.
- After diagnosis, use it as a learning tool: Google can be helpful for learning and understanding your condition better after you have gotten a proper diagnosis from your eye doctor. In this case, you know exactly what your eye condition is and so your search will be more focused. Also, you will not be reading to discern what may be wrong. Instead you will be reading to learn and understand your condition better. Knowledge gained in the process can help you embrace your condition, cope with it and manage it better.
- Read only information from reputable sources: The internet makes it easy for anyone to publish anything. So, while Google Search can retrieve a lot of information, some of them are from sources that cannot be trusted. Some have been put up for commercial purposes and may be misleading. Others may be biased towards individual and organizational experiences and preferences that may not be the same as yours. So do your due diligence to get the right information. Examples of sources you can go to include database of peer-reviewed research studies, websites of eye care professionals and associations, non-profit websites
- Find additional information to back up what you found: As mentioned in point 3 above, some information sources may be reputable but biased due to their own experiences and preferences. It is therefore a good idea to search for more information from other reputable sources to back up what you found. If you find two reputable sources contradicting themselves, you may want to search some more or ask your eye doctor who understands the peculiarities of your eye condition and so is better informed to guide you.