Thanks to the Internet, we have a wealth of information available to us. In just a few seconds from our phones or computers we have access to medical websites, online publications, newspaper articles, blogs, group discussions, and an immediate answer to just about any medical question. However, be careful about which websites you trust and put your faith in; exercise caution when searching for medical advice online.
There are plenty of websites out there trying to sell you products, books, pamphlets, or medical advice– and they might not have your best interest at heart. Sometimes people write very scientific sounding articles but are not part of the medical world; these writings may actually be opinion pieces or reflect personal accounts of medical issues. Before you act on what you have read, make sure you look at who wrote the piece, if they belong to a medical organization, and what evidence they provide for their claims. Ask yourself, “Who benefits from me reading this article?”
Online support groups are also quite popular these days and are an excellent way for people to share information about their own medical journey, find community, and talk to others who are struggling with the same medical issues. Be careful about posting too much personal information online, and be careful when searching for medical advice online. Don’t take another patient’s word on something without talking it over with your own doctor. Never start or stop treatment because someone online told you to.
It’s important to read online material objectively and to take any questions you have to your doctor. I am always willing to have these conversations with patients; if you are concerned about something you have read online I am happy to discuss it with you during an office visit.