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Web Woes

Filed Under: Sexual Health at 1:24 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
ComputerIn college, I had Ebola, E. coli poisoning and cancer of the knee, six times. My friends had scarlet fever, the plague, anaphylactic shock, various anxiety disorders and every rare skin disease possible, all of which were self-diagnosed. In reality, we had severe cases of paranoia, a few minor ailments and a computer. We could type any symptom, such as strange purplish mark on leg accompanied by soreness (also known as a bruise), into a search engine and discover that we had leukemia. We were using the internet to fuel our hypochondria and unearth inaccurate health information. It’s something that happens often and something you want to avoid.

With 82 percent of women and 75 percent of men researching health topics on the internet, the amount of medical information available online has mushroomed, but not all of it is accurate, and much of it is inconsistent.  In a comparison of six hospital-ranking Web sites, researchers found huge data disparities. On one, a hospital would be ranked as the best for colon removal; on another, the same facility, for the same procedure, would be the worst.  Similar discrepancies occur when researching symptoms, healthcare tactics and medications. From one site to the next, the answers to your questions change, often dramatically. So rather than clicking on multiple links, you pick the first site and stick with that response. But, how do you know if the site is reputable, up to date or correct? How are you confident that the article’s author isn’t a bored 12-year-old with google and surprisingly good grammar?

Truthfully, you don’t. Online, anyone can write anything. I could easily add a PhD to the end of my name and claim to be the foremost scholar in Mayan ritual (I won’t and I’m not). So, the only way for you to be confident about the health information you’re receiving online is to do your research. Check to see who wrote it and when. Look for references or links (like the ones in this post and throughout the Lucky Blog) that support the information. And go to well-known, recommended sites. WebMD, for example, is more advisable than Ask Aunt Sally. If you aren’t sure that you’re making proper judgment calls check out Women’s Health. They’ve done the research for you and have a list of sites you can visit, confidently, to obtain medical information.  But, don’t doubt yourself too much. After all, you’re reading this blog; you must have some common sense.

One Response to “Web Woes”

  1. Kelly Samuel says:

    So True! My boyfriend always tells me I’m psyhco because I think I have the craziest diseases off my Web-Diagnosis. Last week I thought i had rabies, I think i was just tired and coming down with a cough. I try to avoid self-diagnosis as much as possible or I’ll never get to sleep!

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