Crowdsourcing health needs; do you treat your

We’ve all experienced this in one way or another; you’re on a Whatsapp group or Facebook page (usually one to which you have been added without your permission! :I ), minding your business, when someone comes and posts:

Hey guys, so the other day, I noticed **** in my body. What could it be? How can I manage it?

And suddenly, the whole space is filled with medical advice from all the undercover doctors!

This has never happened to you? Lucky you! It happened to me again just last week. Someone invited me to join an infertility group on Facebook. It is supposed to be a support group of some sort, and although I didn’t, posts from the group sometimes appear in my feed. The thing that caught my eye last week was this: a lady made a post about noticing a milky discharge from her breast. She asked could be the cause, and solicited treatment options. Her compadres did not disappoint – the doctors quickly separated into two categories – those that were sure that she had an infection, and a second group strenuously insisting that she was suffering from hormonal imbalance (they were likely right, she probably has elevated prolactin levels). A subset of the latter group went on to prescribe Parlodel to her; 2mg daily. And this was where I grew alarmed.

Parlodel is a brand name for Bromocriptine, which is indeed used to treat hyperprolactinaemia – a big word for elevated blood prolactin levels. However, before it is prescribed by a doctor, they usually request the patient to do a blood test to check how high the patient’s level is, and to check their liver and kidney function – these tests are repeated at regular intervals, throughout the period the patient is on the medication;  they usually start with a low dose and gradually increase, and they warn the patient not to stop suddenly – a real possibility because of the drug’s discomforting side effects, which may however cause a rebound and possible worsening of symptoms; . But here, we had these ‘well-meaning’ individuals prescribing without taking any of these precautions. One can only imagine the kind of troubles this individual might run into from following this kind of medical advice.

I know you’re thinking ‘this is extreme’, but engaging in this kind of behavior for ‘unserious’ conditions doesn’t make it better; a hypertensive ‘borrowing’ one or two tablets of antihypertensive from a friend, even when they are not on the same medication. And the one I find most interesting – borrowing other people’s glasses. When I was younger, I wore glasses for a while. At every visit to the optician, he would emphasize that I not lend anyone my classes or borrow another person’s own. The reasons are not far-fetched, if you think about it – apart from the calibration and power of the lenses being different, it would be very easy to transmit an eye infection from one person to another. Yet, this happens commonly, especially among older people. I would be sitting in a meeting, and when someone is asked to read, they would suddenly realize that they have left their glasses at home. They would quickly turn to their neighbor and say ‘lend me your glasses’ and the helpful neighbor would gladly do so.

I can only compare ‘crowdsourcing’ solutions to your medical problem to taking your faulty car for repairs to your neighbor who is a banker because you both have the same type of car, or he has had a similar problem in the past. Even if both cars were made on the same day and in exactly the same way, because you and your neighbor don’t drive exactly the same way, or service your cars at the same time, it is likely that they would not develop the same fault in the same way. If we can take good care of our cars, taking care to research the best mechanic to fix faults, I believe we owe it to our bodies to do the same.

Just imagine that your body is a car, driving your mind and spirit towards your goals!

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