August 12th, 2009

Dot-Com Diagnosis: How to Use the Internet to Get the Best Health Advice (Without Totally Freaking Yourself Out)

By Kelley Luckstein

It starts innocently. The big toe on your right foot doesn’t feel quite right—it’s kind of numb, a little tingly. Maybe I just tied my running shoes too tight at the gym, you think. It’s probably nothing.

But you’re curious. So soon you’re typing “numbness” and “tingly toe” into a search engine. And in no time you’re clicking on links about “Morton’s neuroma,” “transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke)” and “vitamin B deficiency.” Oh, no, you think. It’s a mini-stroke. You’re sure of it.

Make sure any online diagnostic tools you use are speaking directly to you and your situation. “In most cases, good reliable sites will tell you, for a symptom, what are the most frequent producers of that symptom, and what are the most likely in your particular demographic group,” says Roger Harms, M.D., medical editor in chief of MayoClinic.com. “If you’re a 25-year-old woman, it’s a lot different than if you’re a 65-year-old man with the same abdominal pain.”

 

Newsweek by Lisa Jones, 8/11/09

Tags: internet, Mayoclinic.com, Mayoclinic.com, search engine

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