You may remember a teacher saying “you must use authoritative sources” when writing a research paper for class. What your teacher meant was to use sources written by people with academic or professional credentials.

For example, if you were to write a paper on growing roses, your neighbor with a green thumb and beautiful New Dawns might be a great source of information. However, unless she has a degree in botany or is a Master Gardener, your teacher will not consider her an “authoritative source”.

When researching medical information online you may be overwhelmed with the amount of information available for you to choose among. There are web forums, blogs (like this one, MSCaregiver.com), web portals, industry-related web sites, and online encyclopedias.

Be careful. Pay attention to what authority stands behind the information. A good example is this blog, MSCaregiver.com. I am not an authority on Multiple Sclerosis. I am not a physician or research scientist. I will not write beyond my authority. I am a man married to a woman with Multiple Sclerosis, “doing my best when I can’t make it better”. I write about what works for me and I share it here. Some of it is practical information like “Tips for Traveling and Multiple Sclerosis” and “How Does One Talk with a Doctor?“. Some of it is inspirational, “How Do You Pray?“. Because I am not an authority on Multiple Sclerosis, I will not say, “take drug X and it will relieve your symptom Y”.

Why this discussion about authoritative sources?

It is vitally important that caregivers and patients not base their medical decisions on bad information. Bad information is information that is wrong or incomplete. An example of incomplete information is discussed in a recent article on MSNBC.com titled, “Wikipedia often omits important drug data“. The subtitle is “Study: Entries may not include side effects or risks from mixing medications”. I encourage you to read the article. It’s important.

The article mentions a better source for medication information is Medscape Drug Reference, a free, peer-reviewed web site. The article also mentions using medlineplus.gov for “good quality information that you can feel confident in.”

If you want to learn about joining a support group or what my wife means by “leg hours“, this blog is for you. If you want professional help with an issue more critical to health, that might be risky or is medical in nature, talk with a physician. Use authoritative sources.

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