We’re all too familiar with the search for that quick answer for our myriad of health questions on the omnipresent Google or WebMD.  I confess, I have gone there too.  Not a day goes by in the day to day care of patients in my private practice, that I face the popular phrase, “Doctor, I looked it up on the internet.”  A small percentage of patients, actually do find reliable, accurate and valuable information, though far too many find themselves more lost, confused and be ridden with fear after their search on the world wide web.  Indeed, that may be the reason our anxious patients steadfastly come to us looking for clarification.  The key entanglement here is within the name, World, Wide, Web.
World–  Our health is directly linked to our community, our local environment.  The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the environmental pollutants we are exposed to, and so forth.  Looking for solutions to our health problems in a world that does not closely resemble that which we live in, can pose serious dilemmas.
Wide–  The answers we find on the internet are wide, not specific.  People don’t typically search by the name of the disease, they search by symptoms.  ‘Blood in stool’, ‘worse headache of my life’, ‘lump in my throat.’  The reason being, they don’t know the name of the diseases associated with such symptoms.  Generally, health websites such as Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Wikipedia, Medicinet offer a comprehensive discussion on a particular symptom.  You’ll likely find a search for lump in throat  produces a 15 item list of all the associated conditions, including lymphoma.  Is that helpful? No.  Is that scary? Yes.
Web–  By definition, a web is a complex system of interconnected elements, especially one perceived as a trap or danger.1  Enough said.
So next time you notice that your health has changed in any way, keep your doctor in mind, not your computer.  If it’s in the middle of the night, you’re too afraid to wake him or her up, and must imminently look up a question, go to a trusted site, such as Uptodate.com.   There are no advertisers and no drug company propaganda.  Only sound, reliable advice to most of your health questions. Spend no more than five to ten minutes reading the discussion, and don’t let yourself get entangled from one site to another.  More beneficial though is to search this site after your visit with the doctor, once you have a diagnosis or two in hand, when you can learn more about your condition.  Your doctor may already have reliable reading material on hand, don’t be shy to ask.  This is a fine example of being a proactive participant in your healthcare decisions, which I guarantee will lead to better health outcomes.
Stay healthy and well.
Dr. Nasimeh Yazdani