Googling Your Symptoms: How To Avoid ‘Fake News’ February 17, 2017

When it comes to your burning on-line medical questions, stick to University Hospital and non-profit sites.

When it comes ailments in the age of the internet, it seems that everyone is a medical expert at self diagnosis. But before you google any further “why does my eye keep twitching” or “why does my chest hurt,” (common medical inquiries), it is important to check your sources – and be certain that the medical information you seek originates from an accredited web source.

While it is recommended that any abnormal health issue you may experience should be discussed directly with your physician, there are a few well regarded sources within the medical community that can be a helpful guide as you navigate various symptoms and treatments.

When you begin your on-line search, is a great place to start your medical inquiries – particularly their symptom checker resource. More than 3,300 physicians and scientists contribute their knowledge and research on hundreds of diseases and conditions to the site, with easy to understand descriptions, diagrams and videos. As a rule of thumb, it is best to stick to university medical centers and non-profit health organizations ( for your medical information. For-profit medical search engines may be more partial to representing pharmaceutical or insurance companies than your best interests.

Disease-specific medical associations are also a verifiable source when seeking in depth health information for a certain diagnosis or condition, such as The American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association, and Alzheimers Association.

Believe it or not, Wikipedia is often a reliable and well used source for detailed, cited medical information and used frequently by physicians. If you are trying to delve deep into a medical condition or drug, you might also be able to track down a helpful source in the citation section at the bottom of the article. According to an article in Live Science on the credibility of Wikipedia, “a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that Wikipedia had the same level of accuracy and depth in its articles about 10 types of cancer as the Physician Data Query, a professionally edited database maintained by the National Cancer Institute.” The same can’t always be said for non-academic inquires on Wikipedia, however – so use this content in tandem with other verifiable sources. is another great resource for accredited health news. Physicians frequently visit this site for peer-reviewed articles, drug information, data and research.

Ultimately, if you have nagging questions about your health and find a concerning diagnostic source on-line, be sure to print this out and bring it with you to discuss in person with your physician. Remember that your doctor is often able to see a more specific picture of your health than what the internet can likely offer – your doctor can see you, sitting in front of him or her, on an examination table.

Happy (and healthy) browsing!

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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