If you are living with multiple sclerosis (MS), you have probably searched the internet for health information to help you manage your condition. You also may have wondered how to avoid misinformation. Here are six tips to make sure you are getting reliable, high-quality, and up-to-date information when searching for online health information.
Instead of searching social media for info about MS, look at trustworthy websites run by hospitals, medical associations, or government agencies. For example, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and other hospital sites are reliable sources of health information geared toward people who aren’t doctors or scientists.
You can also look for information published by condition-specific nonprofits or research groups. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a large nonprofit organization focused on finding a cure for MS and empowering people living with MS. The MS International Federation is another large organization dedicated to research and to educating people with MS.
Website URLs ending in “.gov” signify they’re run by U.S. government agencies, like the National Institutes of Health. Those ending with “.edu” are published by educational institutions.
Neurologists are doctors who specialize in treating the brain and nervous system. When searching for information on MS, such as relapses or flare-ups, check to see if a neurologist was involved in the article’s publishing.
If a doctor didn’t write the article, check that it was reviewed by a medical professional — that means a doctor or other health care professional read the article and approved it for medical accuracy.
Below is an example of medically reviewed MS content on MyMSTeam: “Driving With MS: 12 Things You Should Know.” You can see that a medical doctor, in this case a board-certified neurologist, reviewed the article for medical accuracy. It’s important to remember that even if a doctor reviewed something you’ve read online, it does not constitute personalized medical advice.
Older articles are not inherently wrong or unreliable. However, treatments and medical care change, so information can become outdated. For example, in December 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Briumvi (a formulation of ublituximab-xiiy), an injectable disease-modifying drug to treat relapsing forms of MS. Articles published earlier than that won’t include the most up-to-date treatment options.
Look for articles that were published or updated within the past few years to make sure you’re getting the most accurate medical information.
Below is an article from MyMSTeam discussing injectable treatments for MS: “8 Facts About MS Infusion Treatments.” This article was updated to include new drug information in spring of 2023.
If you’re seeking online health information from somewhere other than a hospital or credible medical organization, remember to check who the publisher is. Beware of content from commercial websites that are trying to sell you something, such as supplements, or other wellness items that haven’t been approved by the FDA. The articles on these types of sites may be curated and specifically written to market the product, rather than to provide credible information about MS treatment options.
If you’re wondering about who is behind a website, visit its “about us” page.
When reading articles online, be sure to check the references — the list of the author’s information sources. You can usually find a list of references at the bottom of the page.
Make sure the article’s references include peer-reviewed journals and reputable websites, such as hospitals and condition-specific organizations. “Peer-reviewed” means that other experts in the field have reviewed the article.
At the bottom of “How Damaged Myelin Affects Multiple Sclerosis,” you can see a list of references. If you click on the arrow, you will see that the writer referenced trustworthy sites like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and National Institutes of Health, as well as peer-reviewed journal articles.
If you’re wondering where to go when you have general questions about MS, you can ask your doctor for recommended resources. They may have a list of suggested websites or books that they can provide you. You can also ask any other health care provider you see for suggestions to ensure you’re getting the best answers possible to your health-related questions.
On MyMSTeam — the social network for people with MS and their loved ones — more than 202,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.
Are you living with MS? Have you struggled to find reliable health information online about MS or other health conditions? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.