Can a Website Accurately Diagnose Your Health Problems?



You’ve probably heard the warning NOT to go to WebMD if you’re feeling under the weather. There are jokes out there about how mild symptoms like a scratchy throat can lead certain sites to diagnose frightening diseases such as cancer.

Most Americans search the Internet for general health-related information, and a third of them attempt to self-diagnostic their signs based on what they read online. Thankfully, there are a lot of reliable digital sources for exact, up-to-date medical information. While it is true that some medical diagnostic websites tend to be alarming in their results, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to get certain information.

The key to using medical websites and apps with a diagnostic feature is keeping things in perspective. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The more symptoms you have and the more information you provide, the more a medical diagnostic algorithm can narrow down the possibilities. Don’t neglect to mention even minor symptoms.
  • Be sure to give detailed information about your medical history and what medications you are taking. Something that could sound like the symptom of a significant illness might actually be a reaction to a medication you’re taking or an allergic reaction to something. Don’t skip the details.
  • Be aware that many sites that offer diagnostic tools may be either tied to advertising funds from pharmaceutical companies or actually owned by a pharmaceutical company.
  • When you’re diagnosed with an illness or condition using a website diagnostic tool, confirm the diagnosis with a medical doctor. Never base your health decisions solely on what you read on a website.

Opt for Hospital and Clinic Sites

Some of the most accurate information you’ll find about illnesses, including lists of symptoms, can be found on hospital and clinic websites. The Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic have rich databases of information about a wide range of diseases and injuries. Hospitals and clinics are dedicated to providing unbiased information. They will not be alarmist, and their data is backed by real science without ties to advertisers.

Check Symptoms on Specialist Websites

Sites that diagnose everything from the common cold to rare genetic disorders are just a starting point. Because of the nature and variety of illnesses and symptoms, most websites can’t do more than scratch the surface. For better results and more detailed information, look for websites that focus on specifics.

If you’re having foot problems, you may get more relevant information by visiting a podiatric or orthopedic clinic’s website. Sites like will give you more information about foot symptoms than sites that cover everything from head to toe. Go to the source that focuses on your symptoms; casting a wide net for information means the information you get may be too general.

Yes, you can get an initial idea of what’s going on by using an online diagnostic tool, but that should never be the end of your journey. Always follow up with your doctor or a specialist to confirm your suspicions and advise the best course of action.


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