We’ve become a society that likes to self diagnose ourselves via web searches. We also like to learn more about our health, the medication we take, and a lot of other things related to health topics overall. There are a lot of websites offering advice and articles that are helpful. But are all of them really that good, even the highly ranked sites?

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WebMD is one of the highest rated websites in the world for finding medical information on pretty much anything you can think of. It’s got an amazingly large database that touches upon a lot of subjects including diseases, pharmaceuticals, and general health questions.

Yet, there are a lot of physicians who warn their patients about getting all their information from any website, including this one. Sure, some physicians hate when patients go into their offices after self diagnosing their problems, especially when they’re wrong but could it be possible that physicians might have a point?

When evaluating anything you have to set up criteria that you can use for anything related to the subject. In this case, we set up 5 different types of questions, some blatant and some that take a twist on a general topic and used them to evaluate this site. Our results, led by each thing we searched for, are below.

1. How much water is too much per day?

There are hundreds of sites that recommend 8 cups of water a day at a minimum. WebMD addresses that one pretty well. Over the last few years there have been studies showing that the 8 cups of water recommended might be too much because a lot of the foods we eat contain enough water that could count against those 8 cups.

Water intoxication, otherwise known as dilutional hyponatremia, is a very real issue that occurs when people drink too much water. This site has a link to the topic that explains what it means and the symptoms (covered in 2 pages) pretty well. However, there’s not a single article we could find on the site that answers the specific question that was asked.

Instead, they have a forum where members answered the question, with answers being all over the place. This is inconclusive & not real medical advice, which makes it untrustworthy.

It’s possible that the website doesn’t update its information all that often because in June of 2015 a study was published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, and announced at the International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, that the high range should be between 14 and 17 cups, even for athletes who are under a lot of physical stress and losing a lot of body fluids while working out.

One would hope that would be something added to the information WebMD gives somewhere on their site other than in a forum, since there are a number of people who end up in the hospital or die from this yearly.

2. What are the symptoms of a heart attack

There’s a lot of information about heart attacks, both for men and women (since women don’t necessarily show symptoms the way men do), starting with their Heart Attack Directory. They list symptoms, studies, and ways to help people who might be suffering one while it’s occurring.

That information is very thorough, and they add slideshow presentations which help to present the information in a very easy to understand way along with images that are top quality. Much of the information is tied into looking at hypertension, or high blood pressure, since there’s a strong causal relationship between the two. That information is also high quality.

Where they fall is in offering three videos on the subject. Two of them are under 2 minutes long, and each contains a person talking about their symptoms. The last one is about a person who talks about having high blood pressure and how it led them to having a heart attack. The bad part isn’t having some human interest stories; the bad part is not having at least one video specific to heart attacks that people could watch and listen to, since not everyone likes consuming all their information by reading. That might be petty but from a site with so much content, it would have been nice to see being there.

3. Lipitor

Lipitor is the #1 recommended pharmaceutical used to fight high cholesterol. Because of that, one would expect a site like this to have a lot of information and articles on the subject.

This they deliver well with a lot of great information, as well as a lot of information on cholesterol and high cholesterol in general. However, like many websites these days, they break it down into multiple categories, which means you have to visit multiple pages (and see multiple advertisements) to get through it all; that’s annoying.

In this case you have to go through 6 pages of information to learn everything you might want to know. There’s also a 7th page which is interesting because it’s a review page by readers who rate three criteria (effectiveness, ease of use, satisfaction) on the 5-star system, and then can offer commentary. We did a quick look at other pharmaceuticals and found that to be the formula for all of them. It might not be scientific, but it’s smart of the site to ask people to tell their experiences with different pharmaceuticals. As a sidebar, they also have information and reviews for supplements.

4. Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer is a major health concern for both men and women so it was gratifying to see WebMD giving a lot of information on the subject through what they call their Breast Cancer Health Center. It’s very comprehensive, as they talk about how it can be found, diagnosing it, as well as the different treatments and different stages of the disease. It was especially gratifying to see many articles on male breast cancer, which is still unknown to much of the populace.

They also have videos of people telling their stories, slideshows of different things concerning diagnosis and treatment, and a forum where people can share more of their stories and encourage each other. There are even sections about women who have had mastectomies and the different types of implants some of them get after those surgeries. This topic has been handled very well so no problems there; well, except for the wish that, like with heart attacks, that they had at least one video on the subject.

5. Hypoglycemia in diabetics

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is as dangerous in its own right as diabetes. Not everyone who has hypoglycemia is diabetic, let a very high number of diabetics have to deal with this on a daily basis.

Therefore, it was disappointing that, though they had links to information about this for diabetics, we couldn’t access any of those links. Rather, they wouldn’t load, getting hung up because of what we expect is an advertising glitch. All the links we clicked on regarding non-diabetics worked fine, and articles that talked about diabetes and mentioned hypoglycemia in passing worked, but not being able to access the information we were searching for is problematic. We tried for a number of hours without success, so we can only hope it’s a temporary glitch.

Because we can’t look at the information for our last evaluation criteria, we have to rate the site based on what we could view. Based on an A-F grading scale (skipping E), we would grade this site a B- at best. Although there’s a lot of information overall, the site doesn’t give its best effort in answering specific questions. We’re not sure how often the website is updated based on the water question, and the lack of informative videos or audio files means there’s a lot of potential consumers of their content that won’t be served properly.

Also, using so many multiple pages for things like medications and supplements is a total grab for advertiser dollars and a waste of time for visitors (although to be fair, some medications might have a long list on one page that could boggle the mind if too much information is on one page; still, having 7 pages for each one is excessive). The two pages they used for water intoxication wasn’t needed either.

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