Another sick day at home for me leads to another look at health as it relates to the Internet. The vast amount of medical advice and health advice sites out there can be confusing sometimes, but the proper use of them can be rewarding.
Finding the Right Information
There are actually a lot of tools available online that can help learn about your health and any potential illnesses or maladies you might suffer. However, Some of the sites available for this purpose can be misleading, while some can be simply confusing. When looking for medical advice online, take a few minutes to do some research and find out which sites are reputable and which ones are not. One good place to begin your search is WebMD, which is reviewed for accuracy by a medical review board that includes a large number licensed physicians.
Using the Correct Information
Finding a good source would be the simple part. Once you've found a reliable website, you'll move on to researching your symptoms and finding possible causes, which is actually the tricky part. It's not that the site won't have correct information, it's that in all likelihood there will probably be too much of it, which leads to two distinct complications:
1.Overabundance of information. For many symptoms, there will simply be too a handful of potential matches due to overlap of symptoms between illnesses. There's a reason why the running joke on House regards misdiagnosis of lupus, and that's because its symptoms vary so widely that it's very easily confused with additional diseases. A simple cough with a sore throat can yield a results ranging from the common cold to tuberculosis, and since a medical advice web site can't analyze you, it can only offer possibilities.
1."Cyberchondriasis." Hypochondriasis of medical students, or "med student syndrome," is a fairly common situation in that a student reading about a particular disease or illness perceives in himself signs and symptoms of this illness. It's entirely understandable given the nature of preoccupation with a subject, and the same thing can very easily happen to all those researching illnesses on medical advice sites. You look up your symptoms, you see a potential match, and even if you can not actually display the other symptoms of that potential match, you start to think that you do. This is not only common among all those researching their own symptoms, however also among the healthy browsing these types of sites.
In truth, the best use of a service like WebMD is not to determine with certainty your illness, but rather to supplement a doctor's diagnosis. The doctor has had experience and training in the medical field to make the correct diagnosis or at to least narrow down the possibilities, whereas half an hour of searching symptoms on the Internet is more likely to result in incorrect diagnoses or a vast array of possible diagnoses at best, and a terrible case of panic at worst. If you do research your potential illness before visiting your doctor, try to keep an open mind and refrain from deciding what your illness is before your doctor offers a diagnosis however instead keep some ideas in mind and then use a medical advice website to research the diagnosed illness after your appointment.