What to Know About Self-Diagnosing

Why Am I Tired?
Maryann, 23, is a busy graduate student who reports feeling fatigued, lightheaded and shaky at times. She fears her symptoms may mean that she has anemia or hypoglycemia and turns to The Doctors for help.

Anemia is a condition that occurs when your body lacks enough healthy red blood cells. It can be triggered by iron deficiency, and one of the major symptoms is fatigue.

Online Physicians

The high cost of medical care has made it tempting for some people to consult doctors via the Internet. The Doctors puts online physicians to the test. Do they make the grade?

Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar is too low. According to
internist and CBS medical correspondent Dr. Holly Phillips, "As a medical illness, it really has to do with how your body uses insulin and how it controls blood sugar. All of us can experience periods of low blood sugar if you just don't have anything to eat for a period of time. But as a medical illness, hypoglycemia is another issue."

The Doctors sends Maryann to Dr. Phillips, who performs a series of blood tests to see if Maryann's problems are indeed due to anemia and hypoglycemia. The test results reveal that Maryann does not suffer from either illness.

"Maryann, you're just like so many of my patients," Dr. Phillips says. "You're tired. You're a young grad student, working full-time, studying full-time, trying to find the time to spend with your friends and family and be social. And you're really burning the candle at both ends. You're exhausted.

"So I think part of the reason you're feeling tired," she adds, "is because you are tired. You've really got to work on getting that energy level up."

Dr. Phillips suggests that Maryann eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet that includes leafy greens, fruits and protein-rich snacks, and make sure she gets enough sleep.

The Suicide Disease
Sandra, 51, suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, also known as the "suicide disease" because it causes excruciating jolts of pain to shoot through the face and can make people feel like killing themselves. See Sandra's painful story.

"This is the mother of all pinched nerves," neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Martin explains. "This is what happens when the trigeminal nerve, which comes out of the brain stem and goes to your face and provides sensation, gets pinched, usually by a blood vessel."

Dr. Martin details the condition, what Sandra's brain scan revealed and how he surgically treated her.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
For the last year, Laura's 4-year-old son, Korbin, has been twitching, shaking and clenching his body while he sleeps. Concerned, Laura turned to the Internet for answers. Her research has led her to believe that Korbin is suffering from periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).

PLMD Symptoms

• Poor sleep and daytime sleepiness
Leg and limb movements during sleep
Knee, ankle and big toe joints bend at night

"[PLMD] is not that common, it's a little rare," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. "I can think of some other problems first.

"There's some important things you've got to do to make sure this is the true diagnosis," Dr. Jim adds. "First off, you've got to get a sleep study [done]. Now they can do these at home, too. You used to have to go to a sleep lab. ... You really have to talk to your doctor, because there are also some other causes for these symptoms. Sometimes kids that are anemic, or have poor circulation or kidney problems could have these types of symptoms, too."

Treatments for PLMD include massages, relaxation techniques, and, in serious cases, medication.

Jannette from Orlando, Florida says that she gets strep throat three to four times a year and is tired of going to the doctor. She has stocked up on antibiotics over the years and self-medicates when she begins showing symptoms. She asks The Doctors if she is doing the right thing.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon explains the dangers of self-medicating and overusing antibiotics.

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OAD 10/19/09