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Expert Speak

This is a public and patient education campaign on a very critical issue of our times, Choose Safer Healthcare.

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Self-Diagnosis, Self-Medication and Patient Safety

Self-diagnosis and self-medication are risky practices that can have serious consequences on patient safety. Self-diagnosis is usually done through online resources, medical books, or personal experience. Self-medication is a global phenomenon involves using over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs without a valid prescription with one's own initiative, or on the advice of another person, without consulting a doctor.

However, it is important to note that self-diagnosis can be inaccurate and lead to unnecessary anxiety or delay in seeking proper medical care. At the same time, self-medication is far from being a completely safe practice. Potential risks of self-medication practices include incorrect self-diagnosis, delays in seeking medical advice when needed, infrequent but severe adverse reactions, dangerous drug interactions, incorrect manner of administration, incorrect dosage, incorrect choice of therapy, masking of a severe disease and risk of dependence and abuse.

Here are some examples:
  • Misdiagnosis: When you try to diagnose yourself, you may not have the expertise or knowledge to do so accurately. This can lead to misdiagnosis, where you think you have a certain condition but it turns out to be something else entirely. This can lead to delay in getting proper treatment and can even make your condition worse.
  • Delayed treatment: Even if you correctly diagnose your condition, you may delay getting proper treatment because you're trying to treat yourself. This can be especially dangerous in serious conditions, such as cancer or heart disease, where early treatment is critical.
  • Overmedication: When you self-medicate, you may take more medication than you need or take it for longer than recommended. This can lead to medication-related complications, such as side effects or even overdose.
  • Under-medication: On the other hand, you may not take enough medication or stop taking it too soon, which can lead to incomplete treatment of the underlying condition.
  • Drug interactions: If you're taking multiple medications, there's a risk of drug interactions. When you self-medicate, you may not be aware of potential interactions between different medications, which can lead to serious complications.
  • Allergic reactions: You may not know if you're allergic to certain medications or ingredients in medications. If you self-medicate and take a medication you're allergic to, you may experience a severe allergic reaction.

Overall, self-diagnosis and self-medication can be risky and potentially dangerous. Adverse consequences of such practices should always be emphasized to the community and steps to curb it. Therefore, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional if you have any health concerns or need medical treatment.

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