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The Invisible Web

By David Mendosa

Last Update: February 15, 2001

If search engines could talk, most of the time they would say, "You can't get there from here." Even Google, the biggest and best of the search engines, currently searches a mere 1.3 billion Web pages. 

That's about half of what is known as the visible Web. But the so-called invisible or deep Web is about 500 times larger, according to a new study by BrightPlanet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Here are the best…I have discovered

The invisible Web consists of information stored in databases. Unlike pages on the visible Web, the software spiders and crawlers that compile search engine indexes can't get at the information stored in databases.  

Some of these databases are as valuable to people with diabetes as the visible Web sites I usually write about here. I won't pretend to know all of the invisible health-related databases, but here are the best of those that I have discovered over the years. They fall into five broad categories:

1. Finding Healthcare Professionals

It's a sad fact that most people with diabetes have never seen one of the doctors who specialize in the disease, endocrinologists. There just aren't enough in practice to go around. But if you want the very best of care, you will often want to search for one.

How? The American Medical Association keeps an online database that includes virtually every licensed American physician. It includes credentials, office hours, specialty, office location, and phone. In my experience it is more complete and works faster than the database of American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Three other kinds of specialists that people with diabetes usually need also have databases. You can find a nearby Diabetes EducatorRegistered Dietitian, and Podiatrist.

2. Finding Prescription Information

Since successful treatment of your diabetes depends much more on you than on your doctor, you need to know as much as possible about the pills and insulin your doctor prescribes for you. What should they be able to do? What are the side effects?

Three of the best drug databases are PharmInfo Drug Information Center, RxList, and InteliHealth Drug Resource Center. You can also find FDA Drug Approval Data.

3. Food Composition Data

Diet and exercise play a role in diabetes therapy for even more people than pills and insulin do. All of us with diabetes need to be extremely knowledgeable about what we eat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database contains data for 82 different nutrients in more than 6,200 foods. A USDA report of special interest to many people with diabetes is Sugar Content of Selected Foods, which contains data on monosaccharides, disaccharides, other sugars, and total sugars for more than 500 foods.

4. Understanding Medical Terms

All of us need to consult dictionaries from time to time in order to understand what we are reading. This is especially true when those of us who lack a medical education try to understand the often-abstruse medical language.

Fortunately, three excellent medical dictionaries are online. has MedTerm Medical Dictionary. CancerWEB has  The On-line Medical Dictionary. While InteliHealth has the best name in dictionaries, the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary, it was the only one of these three that couldn't fine one term I searched for, "enteric-coated."

5. Journal Articles and Abstracts

By far the biggest and most valuable resource for professional publications on diabetes is MEDLINE, which now includes more than 11 million abstracts. It's free, and for a fee you can order the full text of any of them from several Web sites that provide a MEDLINE front-end or search tool.

The best-known of these MEDLINE tools is the National Library of Medicine's PubMed. But much easier to use, in my view, is the Medscape Medline Search.

While MEDLINE is one of the greatest resources for people with diabetes, I list it last, because I have written about it here before. So it's a bit less invisible than the other databases listed here. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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