Do a quick search online for information about PCOS and you’ll pull up 11,000,000 results. Given the massive amount of information out there, it can be difficult to sort through what is medically accurate, what is an opinion, and what is a sales pitch. You’ll also find personal stories that women have written about their own experiences.
There is a wealth of information available online that can help you learn about your condition and make it easier to have a meaningful conversation with your doctor. You’ll be able to ask better questions and be more able to advocate for yourself and your treatment needs.
How do you know what’s useful and what’s not? Here are some important tips on finding good medical sources so that you are confident that the medical information you are looking at is accurate and appropriate for your care.
1. Consider the sourceWhen reading anything containing medical fact, you should look at who is writing the material. Is the person a doctor or nurse with experience? Is there an author even listed? Do they list resources at the end of the article? Be dubious of anything written by someone who does not have personal or professional experience in treating women with PCOS or women’s health issues.
2. Check for certificationThere are several organizations that certify that a website follows certain guidelines in guaranteeing accuracy of the material published on the site. Health on the Net, or HON, certification is one such example. URAC is another. The information on websites that have this designation can be trusted to be medically accurate and unbiased.
3. Check out the rest of the siteDo they seem to be selling something? Are they offering a quick fix product? Something that will cure your PCOS? We know that there aren’t any quick cures for PCOS, so avoid any product, or website promoting a product, that promises to do so. Ads are one thing, you’ll see them on some of the most reputable websites, but be wary of blatant promotions by the author.
4. Try professional organizations
Professional organizations and government run sites can be a great source of information. For example, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine is the major organizations for fertility specialists. They have a wealth of information on their site especially for patients. Reputable government sites include the Centers for Disease Control (www.CDC.gov
), the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is a part of the National Institute of Health (www.nlm.nih.gov
), and The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (www.hhs.gov
5. Be wary of personal opinionOnline forums
and support groups are a great place to meet other women and get support when you are feeling overwhelmed. They are not, however, a good place to get medical advice. Everyone’s medical history and situation is completely different. What worked for one woman may not be appropriate for you. For that reason, make sure you speak with your doctor before making any changes to your treatment regimen, especially based on what someone says on a forum.
6. Don't forget your doctorSpeak with your doctor about any concerns. The internet is a great place to access information so that you can understand your condition and advocate for yourself. But it should be used appropriately. Don’t rely on the information you find online to treat yourself. If you have any concerns about your treatment or possible side effects, run them by your doctor.