The Internet is the world’s greatest way of disseminating information. That said, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In this case specifically, the wealth of medical information available on the internet has spawned “cyberchondria” – the tendency to look up your headache and diagnose yourself with a brain tumor. Or to post a vague health complaint on a forum and find yourself inundated with dozens of different “diagnoses” from not-doctors.

Yes, it’s wonderful that there are reliable medical resources on the web. But it is not wonderful to diagnose yourself via these resources, then argue with your doctor’s diagnosis, which was made via examination, testing, and, you know, actual medical knowledge.

Don’t be a cyberchondriac. Here’s how:

Seek Information, Not a Diagnosis

If you are having weird health issues, go ahead and look them up on authentic websites. You can turn toward sites like MayoClinic, WebMD, MedlinePlus and the National Institutes of Health.

Do not go into this expecting to find the final answer to your issue – at best, it may help clarify what’s going on and connect your current symptoms to other things you may not have thought of. This can facilitate a better conversation with a doctor in real life.

When you land on a page about your symptoms, read the “Causes” critically. Don’t ignore possible causes like caffeine, insufficient sleep and acidic foods and immediately jump on TUMOR! OMG!! Because it’s probably not. The reason these reputable sites are reputable is because they are thorough – they list all the possible causes. Now if only they would list the actual probability of each cause…

Don’t Argue With Your Doctor

Once you’ve done your research, go see your doctor. You could always skip the research part and just make the appointment, but the fact that you’re reading this speaks to the fact that you won’t. So print off your checklists and whatever page has convinced you that you have multiple organ failure because this blister won’t go away. Show them to your doctor, describe your symptoms, and submit to the testing.

When the results come back and show that you just need better shoes, take the doctor’s word for it. She has many years of training and experience behind her, she is backed up by modern technology, and that combination doesn’t miss things that are going to kill you today. If you still have nagging doubts, seek a second opinion. From a doctor, not a forum.

Don’t Attempt to Treat Yourself

This one has a caveat – if your symptoms are minor, like the flu or seasonal allergies, feel free to look up some remedies. is a reputable resource that includes all warnings, contraindications and possible interactions. But if you have symptoms that have not yet been diagnosed, don’t do the guesswork yourself. See the doctor.