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I have had an itchy finger for a number of weeks now. It seemed far
too trivial a topic to bother a living breathing doctor with and so
I typed the words itchy finger into the BBC Health website
and 122 choices possible causes popped on to my screen. Ten of these
were directly relevant to fingers (and I was perturbed to find that
the first match was for scabies), but I couldnt help myself
from reading the further matches for itchy and read about
everything from itchy ears to itchy bottoms to ringworm. One fascinating
hour later and I was itching all over.
the web stop us from going to our doctor or does it just make us
go with a list of symptoms as long as our (eczema ridden, but its
all down to stress or maybe Im allergic to my washing powder)
arm. And does this then mean that we then take up even more of the
doctors time as they have to refute all our beliefs before telling
us what is actually wrong? And which website should we use?
The BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk/health)
is excellent in a lot of ways. It is split into various sections such
as womens health, mens health, kids health and health
for the over 50s. It provides information and advice about leading a
healthy lifestyle as well as about illnesses and the excellent Ask
the doctor. It is incredibly easy to use and looks good as well,
with a range of bright colours. Trivial point? I dont think so.
Theres nothing worse than looking at page after page of black
type. Still on the lighter side, there is also a link about health in
soaps. This looks at problems which have been highlighted throughout
the week on programmes such as The Archers, Eastenders
and Casualty. Not surprisingly, since it is linked to the BBC,
this website is almost universally held as the best when it comes to
actual health news.
I then linked into www.patient.co.uk.
This site is maintained by two GPs and is primarily a link site. That
is, it holds a wide range of links and information connecting to other
sites rather than holding all the news themselves. I liked this site
as it seemed to hold a great deal of useful information about support
organisations. They also offered advice on complementary medicine and
an excellent section on patient advocacy. My only problem was that I
couldnt get the keyword search function to work.
But what about the people who are supposed to provide our healthcare?
When Aneurin Bevan set up the NHS in 1947, could he ever have imagined
that we would look up our symptoms from the comfort of our own home
I was prepared to not like this website, maybe because were all
so used to not expecting the NHS to provide an efficient service (through
no fault of the actual workers, I hasten to add). But actually its
incredibly good. Like the BBC site it is both proactive and reactive
since it gives information on leading a healthy lifestyle, ie about
drinking, smoking, stress as well as giving advice about illnesses.
It is also very easy to navigate.
The section conditions and treatments has a body map where
you select the area that hurts and then follow through. I did this with
a headache (am I the only person who always thinks a headache is worse
than it is?) The only problem with this is that an enormous, and I do
mean enormous, list of strange illnesses pops up, things I have never
heard of, like Adrenoleukodystrophy and congenital ocular motorapraxia.
Given that I just wanted some general advice this terrified me and I
spent hours reading about horrific medical symptoms. My headache disappeared
no doubt that the NHS site is incredibly useful site if you need
to do research on specific illnesses, particularly as it includes
links to support organisations. It also provides a lot of information
about what you should expect from the NHS. My one complaint is that
when I typed in itchy finger I first of all got no direct
hit and then got information on how to brush my teeth.
But enough of our publicly
funded websites. I wanted something different, something natural - something
alternative. So I typed in alternative medicine and complementary
medicine and got a rather strange selection of sites. Most of
these were either research based (useful, but not what I was looking
for) or for individual treatments. Which is, I suppose, not that surprising
since there is no regulatory body for alternative medicine as a whole.
Some therapies are regulated, some are not. I did find some all-encompassing
sites, the best of which seemed to be www.therapy-world.co.uk.
This covered a range of the more regulated alternative therapies - acupuncture,
Alexander Technique, homeopathy, reflexology, for example. While not
being the most exciting web page Ive ever seen, it is informative
and very useful since once you click on a therapy, a page comes up describing
what the therapy is, what it works best for (eg: reflexology is very
good for anxiety, migraines, IBS amongst other things) and then, most
usefully, carries a list of registered practitioners throughout the
I also found an excellent site at http://altmedicine.about.com
which covered the whole array of alternative medicines. Again this was
a linking site which took you on to a range of other sites. But if you
want to find out more about reiki or magnetic therapy before you rush
off to a practitioner, this is the site for you. It not only links to
other organisations but does a lot of the research for you. When I entered
reiki I found that I was looking at articles from the BMJ
amongst others, saying what they thought about it. There are also great
discussion sites and tips on how to find a good practitioner. The site
is American, but the code of practices remain the same.
Are web based health sites worth using? Well, I am now a practising
hypochondriac and spend hours reading about every trivial little symptom
that I have ever had. Its true what they say - a little knowledge
is a dangerous thing. Therefore, if youre not sure what youre
looking for youre maybe as well going to a doctor. But if youre
looking for support or information about something specific then there
are a lot of excellent sites out there. But, after all this research,
I, and my scabrous finger, are ready to check in at my favourite website
- for some well deserved rest and relaxation.
© Hazel Marshall