Google is rolling out a health feature that provides information about "common" medical conditions in response to related searches.

The facility provides medical illustrations, possible treatments and other data ahead of its traditional links to others' sites.

The firm says it worked with doctors to develop the service, but adds that it is not intended to replace visits to a professional.

It is initially limited to the US.

But the firm adds that it plans to extend the service across the globe, adding rarer ailments in time.

British doctors have welcomed the initiative, but caution that the information needs to be edited to become suitable for local markets.

"One in 20 Google searches are for health-related information," said Prem Ramaswami, announcing the launch of the feature.

"We'll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is - whether it's critical, if it's contagious, what ages it affects, and more.

"For some conditions you'll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor."

The effort is the latest in a series of moves into health by the search giant.

Last year it revealed it was funding development of a cancer and heart-attack detector, which would involve placing nanoparticles in users' bloodstreams.

It has also bought the maker of a spoon for Parkinson's patients, is working on smart contact lenses for people with diabetes, and has invested in 23andMe, a start-up that sells genetics tests to the public.

BBC News