You feel tired all the time and everyone around seems to be sick just as you feel have a nagging cough coming on. You decide it’s time to figure out what is going on with your own health and you fire up the old Google machine. After perusing the net, you’ve narrowed down your illness to chronic Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, major depression, seasonal affective disorder, anemia, attention deficit disorder and tuberculosis. Armed with this information, you go to UHS only to be told that everything is fine. You just need to go bed earlier, party less and take some Aleve for the cough. What gives?
The ability to search electronic medical databases is one of the biggest game changers in modern medicine. Medical providers no longer have to depend upon their memory to try to determine how best to evaluate and treat patients. Now clinicians can do an electronic search while the patient is in the office and provide the most up-to-date evaluation and treatment to match the patient’s presenting symptoms.
The amount of information available also has its pitfalls—as the old saying goes: “garbage in, garbage out.” There’s little on most medical websites that helps the user determine which is quality information and which is opinion.
Wanting to know more about what is going on in your body is a good thing. Learning where to go to find the answers is an important first step. Making a diagnosis is kind of like an episode of Sherlock, you have to deal with the best information possible to come up with your conclusion.
The best sources to look up your symptoms should be from highly regarded medical organizations:
- For general medical advice, try Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins and our very own University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. These sites have a wealth of health information that is available to the general public.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is an excellent site for information about infectious disease, appropriate use of antibiotics and travel advice.
- The United States Preventive Services Task Force is the best evidence based source for preventative treatments.