Recently there have been some articles in the papers about self- prescription and the problems associated with this. Now with the internet and google doctor everybody can try and self-diagnose their own symptoms and then just go to the pharmacy and get whatever medications they want. When dealing with simple symptoms like a flu or some local injury it is usually ok, but trying to self-prescribe for symptoms that are vague or more persistent can be dangerous. I had a patient who diagnosed her headaches as migraine and bought some analgesics. This helped her pain initially but later the headaches persisted in spite of the medication. She attributed this to increase stress and lack of sleep as she was busy meeting deadlines. However one day she had double vision. Her GP sent her to the hospital and a CT scan showed a brain tumor. So some symptoms may seem simple but could suggest something more serious underneath. I am not saying that for every small pain you run to the doctor but any symptom that is unexplained or that persists you should get it checked.
The other common problem I see in my clinic is patients with chronic illness like hypertension, diabetes, gout and high cholesterol. This are the metabolic and lifestyle diseases. Almost every month I see two to three patients who after been diagnosed and prescribed medication, continue to buy from the pharmacy without seeing their doctor. They then come with the complications of this diseases like kidney failure, loss of sensation, eye problems or even more serious things like heart attacks and strokes. This chronic diseases need to be closely monitored. Regular blood pressure and sugars should be done and this can be done at home. However the rest like your cholesterol and kidney tests should be done every three months and an eye and neurological examination yearly.
The other area of concern is the rampant consumption of supplements and herbal medication. When we consume a supplement we must know exactly why we are taking that particular supplement. Example you may take Omega 3 for inflammation or folic acid for homo cysteine and Vitamin D3 for deficiency. Do not take a supplement because your neighbor said so. Also we need to be careful when we take herbal medicines. Unlike supplements, herbal medication behave like drugs and cause side effects. I have seen a number of my elderly patients develop lazy bowel syndrome because of chronic consumption of ‘natural’ laxatives.
So in summary be a smart consumer but do be careful about self-diagnosis and self-prescription.