1. Health
Amber J. Tresca

How To Tell A Good IBD Website From A Bad One

By June 23, 2011

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Most of us probably wouldn't label ourselves as "Internet savvy," but in truth, you probably are just that. Years ago you needed a lot of knowledge to use the Internet and get anything out of it, but today knowing how to use chat rooms, forums, and social networking is more like common knowledge. Even so, every day I see health web sites that not only contain questionable information, but that I would even consider to be dangerous.

How can you tell a credible web site from one that may have poor information? Just as you can't tell a book by its cover, you certainly can't tell a web site by its design. A great design doesn't mean the web site has good information, and a poor design doesn't necessarily mean that you should discard what's on the site. That being said, a site with a lot of broken links or one that has so many ads that you can barely find the real information might not be a good source for your health information.

A site that is trying to sell you something may not also be the best source of unbiased information. If a site is selling ear wax remover, it's probably going to tell you all about how dangerous ear wax is, and it may even have sources to back up that claim. But take a closer look. Are the sources credible? Are they 5 or more years old?

A site that claims to have a doctor writing the articles may not be entirely truthful. Is there a page that lists this person's credentials? If they are trying to sell you ear wax remover, are they actually an ear/nose/throat doctor that has seen ear wax problems in their practice? Look deeper to find out why this physician is writing articles on the Internet and if the information can be trusted.

We've seemed to enter a new era in the use of the English language, and typos and poor spelling are rampant. A credible web site for health information won't read like an 6th grader wrote it. Information should be written clearly and should be reasonably free of grammatical and typing errors.

Another trend is the idea of letting people pose questions and having a user base post answers. This is a wonderful way to find out where to download a good IBD app, find a bathroom while traveling, or decide what portable toilet to purchase, but it is an exceptionally poor one for finding credible health information. No credible physician would ever diagnose you over the Internet, and no layperson should try to give medical advice -- particularly when it comes to medication.

And, most important of all, a web site about inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) should never, ever refer to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as "irritated bowel disease," "irritable bowel disease," "inflammatory bowel syndrome," or similar misnomers. Those are not real conditions, and it's a huge clue that a web site is not checking its facts and may not be a good resource.

More information about finding reliable health information on the Internet:

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