The internet is putting more medical information into the hands of patients than ever before. In the past, the only ways to learn about an ailment was to ask your doctor, read complicated medical textbooks or join an in-person support group and meet face to face with people who had been through the same thing. The internet offers you all three of these opportunities in a virtual setting, plus many more. Today, websites are even available to help you determine the severity of an illness or injury, as well as to give you a general idea about what your symptoms may indicate for a diagnosis.
The internet is not a substitute for seeing your doctor, but it can help you to treat minor illnesses or injuries at home, and help to educate you about any diagnosis received from your doctor. As with any internet research, however, it is important to find reliable sources of information. Remember that you do not have to have a medical degree to post health information online, and some sites may have inaccurate or misleading information.
Cardiology is the study of the the heart and circulatory system. Congenital heart defects, heart disease and heart failure are all leading causes of heart-related illness and death. Heart disease is the primary cause of death among both men and women, with one out of every three deaths related to heart disease or stroke. If you think you may be having a heart attack, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Ear, Nose & Throat
Ear, nose, and throat specialists treat a wide variety of ailments, ranging from hearing problems, snoring and sleep apnea and allergy issues to injuries of the ears, nose or throat. In some cases, these problems are just irritating and decrease your quality of life while in other cases they can affect your ability to breathe and can even lead to death.
Endocrinology focuses on the body’s hormones and the endocrine system. The endocrine system coordinates many facets of the body’s operation, including metabolism, respiration, excretion and reproduction. One of the most common roles for an endocrinologist is treating patients who do not produce the correct amount of a hormone, such as thyroid hormones or insulin in diabetics.
-Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar
-Hormone Health Network: Endocrine System Diseases
-American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Symptoms
-What to Expect: Thyroid Function Tests
Everyone knows how distressing an upset stomach can be, but do you know how to tell if it is serious or simply a passing virus? Luckily there are symptom checkers and information about all types of gastrointestinal illnesses on the web. Once diagnosed with an illness of the upper or lower gastrointestinal tract, you can also find more information about dietary changes and other treatment options online.
-National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Digestive Disease Statistics
-Digestive Diseases and Disorders: Food and Nutrition Information
-Mayo Clinic: Symptom Checker for Abdominal Pain
-American College of Gastroenterology
Gynecology deals with women’s urinary tract and reproductive organs. Because some women feel embarrassed or awkward about seeking face-to-face help with issues in this area, there are many people online seeking credible information and peer assistance with diseases, defects and symptoms regarding their reproductive organs. Information online, however, should not be used as a substitute for annual cervical smears and sexually transmitted disease testing.
By their very nature, hospital neonatal intensive care units are areas of high stress and emotion. If your newborn requires intensive or special care after birth, or you are planning the birth of a high-risk baby, the internet can offer support and information. Your doctor can most likely also point you toward online resources for your child’s specific condition, including online support groups of other parents.
Neurological disorders and injuries affect many aspects of a patient’s life because they are related to the brain, spinal cord and/or nervous system. There are resources online for almost any diagnosis or traumatic injury you can think of, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and paralyzation.
-National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke — Disorder Index
-Preventing, Treating and Living with Traumatic Brain Injury
-Spinal Cord Injury Resources and Links
-Epilepsy 101: The Basics
Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietary modification to address health concerns and to treat medical issues is often presented as a side note by a doctor, although it is the first line of defense from many illnesses and the most effective treatment for some diseases. Special diets are common for diabetics, the obese, cancer patients and those with gastrointestinal and renal disease.
-Healthy Heart Diet Tips: Eating to Prevent Heart Disease and Boost Heart Health
-American Diabetes Association Meal Plans and a Healthy Diet
-Cleveland Clinic: Healthy Eating for Digestive Disorders
-Nutrition and Osteoporosis
In the past, it was often hard to find information about a specific cancer diagnosis, because each type of cancer has its own symptoms, treatments and prognosis. The internet has changed this, however. While all cancers and cancerous blood disorders are different, there is a plethora of information and support online. There are also websites available for information regarding radiation and chemotherapy as well as surgeries and other cancer treatments.
Problems with bones, muscles, joints, ligaments or tendons can make it hard to get around, and even make it difficult to visit the doctor. While most orthopedic issues are not life threatening, then can greatly impact your quality of life if not properly addressed. Orthopedic issues can be either caused by a trauma or be related to age or a congenital condition.
Illness in children often presents very differently from the same illness in adults. In addition, children cannot always accurately describe how they feel, making it even harder to decide if your child needs to visit the pediatrician. Online symptom checkers for children can make this process easier. In addition, for parents of children with special medical needs, online communities can provide untold support and assistance.
Drug interactions can cause serious health risks, including death. Before the internet, the only way to be sure you were taking your medication correctly was to consult your doctor or pharmacist about all of the drugs you were prescribed as well as to ask about interactions with vitamins and supplements. Today a quick online search can answer these questions for you.
Pregnancy and Obstetrics
There are many websites dedicated to pregnancy and relating to women before, during and after childbirth. From support groups for those who are trying to conceive, to weekly pregnancy trackers and support groups for new moms, the internet has become a great tool for women during this stage of their life.
Despite awareness initiatives to the contrary, mental health issues continue to have a negative stigma in the United States. Because of this, some people do not seek treatment from their physician. Instead, they turn to the internet in an attempt to self-diagnose. While the internet can provide helpful information and virtual support, it is important to remember that only a mental health professional can provide mental health evaluations and treat mental disorders.
Bladder and kidney issues can be dangerous to your overall health, as well as endanger your quality of life. Even a simple urinary tract infection can cause symptoms which make you feel gravely ill. Unfortunately, most kidney and bladder ailments present with the same symptoms, and most require a doctor’s visit to treat. There are, however, some valuable online resources for those who have these issues.