The Internet offers a great resource for researching every ailment from toe fungus to rare birth defects.
A bottle of pills with a name you can’t pronounce. Drug interactions. Symptoms you can’t explain. A scary diagnosis. Emerging experimental treatments. So much about medicine is a mystery revealed only to doctors and nurses, but the Internet offers a great resource for researching every ailment from toe fungus to rare birth defects. Although the Internet also offers some unreliable information and ways of procuring illegal prescriptions, there are also valuable prescription resources, free medical journals, supportive message boards and disease-specific sites that can help you learn more about a medical problem and how to live with it.
And while it’s no substitute for professional care, online advice can at least answer some questions while you’re on the road or help you decide if you need to deadhead home for a doctor’s appointment.
Whether you’re in that situation or just looking for information under more relaxed circumstances, be cautious in your research. There are a few ways to separate the legitimate sites from those trying to sell you a miracle cure or push unorthodox methods of healing:
There’s nothing odd about going online for such information. Four years ago, 54 percent of all U.S. Internet users said they had looked for health or medical information online. A year ago, that figure had risen to 66 percent, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. There’s no need to remain totally in the dark about a health problem just because you can’t get to your doctor.
Today’s drug commercials often leave you wondering exactly what the drug fixes: “Consult your doctor to see if [exotic drug name] is right for you.” Besides that it’s hard to know how all side effects and prescriptions will interact with other prescriptions and herbal remedies. These websites can help you clarify such issues.
With any definite diagnosis comes the immediate hunger for more knowledge. In addition to information specific to your illness, these sites can often direct you to specialists, support services and success stories.
www.niddk.nih.gov (diabetes, digestive and kidney diseases)
GENERAL MEDICAL INFORMATION
WebMD.com is probably the most widely publicized medical help website, but numerous others offer lots of information. Many include links to prescription drug information, message boards, doctor reference services and, for serious diseases, support groups.