Don't diagnose yourself on Wikipedia
Diagnosing yourself on the internet could be harmful, doctors have
said, as they warn that nine in ten medical entries on Wikipedia are
A number of articles on the hugely popular website were found to
contain factual errors, largely because Wikipedia lets users create,
delete and edit entries, which leads to more mistakes.
The study by doctors, found that errors on the site included an entry
telling readers that to correctly diagnose high blood pressure, high
readings must be obtained on three occasions. The researchers said this
is not true and could lead to a dangerous delay in obtaining treatment.
Lead author Robert Hasty of Campbell University in the US warned:
"Researchers should not use [Wikipedia] as a primary resource because
those articles do not go through the same peer-review processess as
best resource when looking for a diagnosis is to speak with your
physician, who can take into account your medical history and other
factors to determine the best course of treatment."The researchers, who
looked at entries on conditions such as diabetes, lung cancer and back
pain, said: "Wikipedia's prominence has been made possible by its
fundamental design as a collaborative database.
"However, it is this very feature that has raised concern in the
medical community regarding the reliability of the information it
Medical staff were also found to be turning to Wikipedia for
guidance. The researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal
of the American Osteopathic Association: "Physicians and medical
students who currently use Wikipedia as a medical reference should be
discouraged from doing so because of the potential for errors."
Wikipedia, which launched in 2001, is the most popular online general
reference site. At least 20,000 of the 31 million entries are
A spokesman said: "There are a number of initiatives in place to help
the continuous improvement of Wikipedia articles, especially in relation
to health and medicine.
For example, WikiProject Medicine brings together volunteer Wikipedia
editors with a knowledge of the topic.
They work together to identify articles that need improvement, find
credible sources and collaborate on articles to make them more accurate
and more readable.
"However, it is crucial that anybody with concerns over their health
contacts their GP as a first point of call.
Wikipedia, like any encyclopaedia, should not take the place of a
qualified medical practitioner."
-Courtesy The Telegraph