MedlinePlus – Symptoms

MedlinePlus - Symptoms provides a brief description of many common symptoms and links to information about them. The section includes a medical encyclopedia and links to a variety outside resources with information about these symptoms & their evaluation, possible causes, and descriptions of a few of these causes. Although limited, this MedlinePlus section is recommended as a helpful source to learn about common symptoms, but additional sites will be needed to provide more comprehensive lists of possible conditions causing these symptoms.

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Review Date: 4/15/2019


Ease of Use

The section has intuitive navigation by A-Z topic list. Each listed symptom leads to a page with a user-friendly summary of the symptom and links to some diseases that this symptom could result from. There is also a right-hand list that allow access to other topics related to the test. Because the unique nature of MedlinePlus, with its many links to outside resources, users must constantly jump from this site to others and then back again; the resulting navigation can be tedious.

Visual Design

The home page is visually simple with only a list of topics and no any images or other infographics to appeal to users.


Users can learn about a few common symptoms and some possible causes. Inconsistent referencing make the reliability of each MedlinePlus page variable. Topics found in the medical encyclopedia are well referenced, while this is inconsistent for individual substance summaries and information from linked sites. However, most links go to respected federal or specialty organization sites.


MedlinePlus clearly identifies the organizations responsible for the content, which include the American College of Gastroenterology, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, National Library of Medicine, and American Academy of Family Physicians. Users will find that the medical encyclopedia topics have the highest reliability by listing reviewers and date of last review. Although MedlinePlus does a great job updating it's pages regularly, the currency of linked sites varies, and individual authors/editors of each topic page are not identified & only occasionally credited on the linked sites.


  1. Extensive Medical Encyclopedia with information related to common symptoms and their causes
  2. Links to information about these symptoms & their evaluation, possible causes, and descriptions of a few of these causes
  3. Highly credible website with backing from the U.S. government and relying on materials generated by authoritative organizations


  1. Only a limited number of common symptoms are listed
  2. User-friendliness of materials vary depending on the external website used
  3. Users will have to spend significant time navigating and reading in order to get helpful information


Sponsors / Affiliations: The U.S. National Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health

Accreditations: None

Additional Features: Patient handouts, videos, images, relevant journal articles, doctor finder, health check tools

Languages: English, Spanish