business, this. How do you demonstrate what a wealth of beneficial
medical advice there is to be found on the Internet without running the
risk of advocating self-diagnosis and non-professional treatment?
Sydney Morning Herald’s computer supplement Icon of 19 July
1997 there was a very pertinent article on this question. “If good
information is the best medicine, bad information can be lethal”.
Several expert bodies were quoted cautioning against the dangers of “false
hopes and cures” starting to proliferate on the Net.
instance, the Association of Genetic Support of Australasia warns: “Remember
that any smart 15-year-old kid or quack doctor can design a
sharp-looking home page on the network and start giving medical advice.
No-one monitors the Net for junk of this type.”
it found four companies doing some Internet selling of prescription
drugs without providing medical details, the World Health Organisation
made sure it issued an alert about “the advertising, promotion and
uncontrolled sale of medical products through the Internet”. The drugs
in question were things like anti-acne drugs known to cause birth
defects, chemotherapy concoctions and morning-after pills.
said, here are a few sites that have impressed me during my explorations
on behalf of relatives and friends over the past three years. But lest
you think I know a lot of weirdly afflicted types please remember that
when you get to my age, you seem more and more to be talking to people
about morbidity, if not mortality.
make up your own mind, though, as you examine them. In other words, be
very circumspect. Visitor beware.
I don’t want to get into the merits or otherwise of naturopathy,
homoeopathy, New Age treatments, etc., so all I’m mentioning here a
few sites where the approach is reasonably traditional, despite the
comparative rarity of some of the ailments.
Sleep, Perchance to Snore * is the name of a serious article at
the (American) ABC News site. Not funny, say the experts, since some
types of snoring can be dangerous, especially if sleep apnea is
indicated. Sleep apnea is irregular air flow during sleep, where the
throat becomes blocked and breathing is stopped for short periods — up
to hundreds of times a night. Apart from leaving you sleepy the next
day, it can put a serious strain on your heart because not enough oxygen
is getting through.
the snoring feature was a link from a site devoted to all things related
to sleep, The Sleep Well,
prepared by Stanford Uni. As well as snoring, there are subpages on
dreams, sleep disorders, children’s sleep, the Epworth sleepiness
test, how to sleep well, together with links and literature references.
a person’s sleep is severely disturbed by their restless legs. The Restless
Legs Syndrome site, devoted to “the most common disorder you’ve
never heard of”, has been known since the 17th century, though it is
still not completely understood.
Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder characterized by unusual
sensations that occur typically deep within the legs, occasionally in
the arms and infrequently in other body parts. These sensations compel
the sufferer to move the affected extremity to achieve relief. Because
RLS is worse during the evening and at night, it can lead to severe
insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.
can be idiopathic (without a known cause) or can be related to an
underlying condition such as iron deficiency, renal failure or
peripheral neuropathy. RLS may also occur during pregnancy, but the
symptoms generally resolve with delivery.
related disorder, periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) or periodic
limb movement disorder (PLMD), is characterized by episodes of jerking
of the limbs during sleep and sometimes while awake.
site contains patient information, a newsletter, information on support
groups, and a list of other sources. And, quite properly, the usual
Health consists of a list of links to many
other places on the Net that cover health issues for women, but is no
less a useful one for all that. It is an essential place to start your
health care for seniors
is actually part of a larger general site on Internet resources for
Blair Price runs a “kick-the-habit” page, Blair’s
Quitting Smoking Resources (designed by ChrisCor Web Design, a
firm specialising in health web sites), that claims to be “the most
popular quitting smoking web site on the Internet” (over 750 visitors
a day). It’s not hard to see why. For starters, it’s updated three
to four times a week — remarkable for a non-news service or
non-bookstore. Its content includes generous info on overcoming smoking,
the benefits of quitting, tools and books to help you. There are also
links to other sites on the topic, plus a chat room.
informative site, containing or referring to material on the physical
and psychological aspects of smoking addiction alike.
completely to the psychological realm, let’s drop in on Mental
Health Net, sponsored by CMHC Systems. This is a “review guide
to mental health, psychology and psychiatry online”, which is updated
weekly and lists over 7,000 individual resources. Vast amounts of
information is thus available to you on topics like:
(abuse, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia . .
book references, including the full text of the Self-Help
database searching facilities
question of the month
devoted to depression is Dr.
Ivan’s Depression Central. (he’s a New York psychiatrist.)
site is Internet’s central clearing house for information on all types
of depressive disorders and on the most effective treatments for
individuals suffering from major depression, Manic-Depression (Bipolar
Disorder), Cyclothymia, Dysthymia and other mood disorders.
its contents list of over 50 topics would be impressive, but space
wasting. I offer here just a few of the entries:
children and adoloscents
famous people with mood disorders
seasonal affective disorder
recommended, with over half a million visitors since 1/1/96.
all the above sites have been American, but to conclude, here is an
Aussie one — ADF:
Anxiety Disorders Foundation of Australia (NSW Branch) Inc. The
Foundation was formed in South Australia in 1992 by a group of consumers
and mental health professionals. Its mission is “to create awareness
of appropriate treatments in individuals with anxiety disorders so they
can achieve self mastery leading to recovery.”
a brief exposition on common misunderstandings (“the worried well”,
“nerves”, “highly strung”), it moves at once to some definitions
designed to distinguish the various disorder types — general anxiety
disorder, specific phobias, including agoraphobia, post traumatic stress
disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia and panic
provided at this site is the complete text of every issue of the
Branch’s semi-annual Newsletter, going back to its first, in
1996. Equally helpful is its large number of links to other Web sites on
anxiety (about 50), together with the text of various relevant articles.
There is also a list of similar organisations in other States.
perchance, despite my forewarnings, you are still rash enough to see the
Net as a substitute for a good doctor, I have included below a most
salutary extract from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat,
one of my favourite books of all time. The risky tendency illustrated in
this quote remains as true now as it did when it first appeared in 1889,
despite the changes in information technology.
remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment
for some slight ailment of which I had a touch — hay fever, I fancy it
was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an
unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently
study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I
plunged into — some fearful, devastating scourge, I know and, before I
had glanced half down the list of 'premonitory symptoms', it was borne
in upon me that I had fairly got it.
sat for a while frozen with horror; and then in the listlessness of
despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever — read
the symptoms — discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it
for months without knowing it — wondered what else I had got; turned
up St Vitus's Dance — found, as I expected, that I had that too —
began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the
bottom, and so started alphabetically — read up ague, and learnt that
I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about
another fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only
in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for
years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed
to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six
letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was
felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of
slight. Why hadn't I got housemaid's knee? Why this invidious
reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I
reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I
grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid's knee. Gout,
in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my
being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from
boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there
was nothing else the matter with me.
sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a
medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class!
Students would have no need 'to walk the hospitals', if they had me. I
was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me,
and, after that, take their diploma.
I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my
pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a
sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I
made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my
heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since
been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the
time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted
myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I
went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could
not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out
as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it
with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I
could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had
walked into that reading-room a happy healthy man. I crawled out a
— Extract on
hypochondria from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three
Men in a Boat
Since this article was first published in 1999,
To Sleep, Perchance to Snore seems to have vanished from