NP Answers your FAQs: Am I a Cyberchondriac?

Is this a mole…or melanoma?
I have a headache…could I have a brain tumor?
I’ve been tired lately…maybe it’s a sign of AIDS!

 
   Students frequently come to our clinic for medical evaluation after they’ve searched the Internet, talked with their roommates or read magazine articles related to their symptoms. Sometimes these resources are helpful, sometimes they are anxiety-producing. It is often difficult for people to be objective about their own health concerns, making it difficult to put this information into the proper perspective.
   The term “cyberchondriac” refers to anyone who uses the Web to obtain health-related information. Whether you’ve got a sore throat, a back ache or a rash, looking on the Web for information about your health concerns has been getting easier over the last few years. More and more Americans are going to the Internet for answers to their medical questions.

   It is important to keep the following points in mind when you search the Web for medical information:
1. Are the articles written by reputable health professionals?
2. Are you looking at a commercial site that is trying to sell their products?
3. Are you aware that on-line medical information is for the general consumer and not tailored to the unique individual?
4. Have you considered bringing your questions about the information you obtain from the Internet to a Medical Provider to discuss?
   It is important to remember that even a few hours reading at medical site is not the same as obtaining individualized assessments of your health issues by a Medical Professional.

   Currently there are many search engines available for people wanting to learn more about their medical conditions. The following sites are among the top 10 most useful medical-related sites, according to the Medical Library Association. We often refer our students to these sites:

1. Medline Plus: this medical web site can be accessed by CSUSM students using our campus website. It is considered one of the best places on the Web for consumers, yet not well-known by the average person. The information is written in layperson’s language offering many links to credible organizations.
2. Familydoctor.org: this site has an A-Z index of conditions, easy-to-understand descriptions and diagrams as well as a guide to over-the-counter medications.
3. Healthfinder.gov: this site offers links to carefully selected Web sites from more than 1,500 health-related organizations.
4. Mayoclinic.com: this site also offers an A-Z list of diseases and conditions in clear layman’s language.
5. CDC.gov: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers up-to-date, evidence-based information on many medical and disease conditions as well as Public Health issues.

   In addition, please check out our CSUSM Student Health and Counseling Service web-site where you can find pertinent health information and links to other resources and services.

   We encourage your interest in educating yourself about healthy living. If you have questions or concerns about your health, we invite you to schedule an appointment with one of our Medical Providers, our Health Educator or Counselors so we can partner with you in good health.

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