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What questions should you ask the doctor about a symptom or diagnosis?

A visit to the doctor should be a stream of communication that travels both ways. The doctor often has a lot of questions but it is also in the patient's interest to be fully informed about their symptoms and diagnosis. Thus, the patient should ask as many questions as is needed to fully understand their condition.

Obviously the first question would probably be: What have I got? After this, you may query the doctor about what caused the condition and whether it can be confirmed. You will also need to know whether further testing is needed. If more tests are needed, you should find out whether any preparation is necessary for the test, what the test entails, how long the results take and what the results will tell you. It is also worth querying the safety and accuracy of the test.

You will obviously also need to find out what course of treatment is recommended and whether there are any precautions you need to take to avoid infecting other people. Before concluding the visit you also need to know whether a follow-up visit is required and, if so, when.

During the session, it is important you stop the doctor at any stage if you are feeling overwhelmed by the information or if the doctor is using too many unfamiliar medical terms. Let him know that he needs to slow down or explain certain terms. Also, be sure to ask where you can get more information on your condition or symptoms if you feel you need to know more. If you are dissatisfied with your doctor's answers or diagnosis, it is within your rights to request a second opinion from another doctor.

Summary of what to find out from you doctor:

  • What is the condition?
  • How serious is my condition and how can I expect it to affect my home and work life?
  • What is the short and long term prognosis for my condition?
  • What caused the condition?
  • Is there more then one condition that could be causing my symptoms?
  • How can I tell if my symptoms or condition is getting worse?
  • Should I be tested for a certain condition?
  • How can I confirm the diagnosis?
  • What symptoms should I look out for?
  • How can I be tested for a condition?
  • What tests will be involved in diagnosing a condition and what will the tests tell me?
  • When will I know the results of the tests?
  • Do I need to prepare in any way for the test?
  • How safe and accurate are the tests?
  • Will I need to have more tests?
  • Do I need a follow-up visit and if so, when?
  • Do I need to take precautions to avoid infecting other people?
  • How is the condition treated?
  • How can I determine my risk for a condition?
  • What do I do if my symptoms or condition deteriorates?

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  • What questions will the doctor ask about your symptoms (and why)?
  • What does your doctor do in a physical examination?
  • What questions should you ask the doctor about a symptom or diagnosis?
  • What questions to ask the doctor about the treatment
  • Steps to take to get the most out of a doctor visit
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