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What questions will the doctor ask about your symptoms (and why)?

To get a better picture of your symptoms and condition the doctor will often ask questions about your symptoms as this information can assist him/her in his diagnosis. He may even request a brief family medical history as well as your medical history so he has an idea of what inherited conditions may be causing your symptoms.

Firstly the doctor will want to know what symptoms you are experiencing. The doctor may then ask more detailed questions about the symptoms.

  • Duration: How long have you had the symptoms? Have you had the symptoms before? If so, what was done about it last time?
  • Severity: How bad is the symptom? Does it come and go or is it constant? Does it affect your feelings, home life or work life? If so, to what degree are these parameters affected?
  • Location: What part/s of the body does the symptom affect and does that change over time?
  • Causes: Do you have any idea what may trigger your symptom? Do you have any idea what may make your symptom better or worse?
  • Associated symptoms: Have you noticed any other symptoms?
  • Timing: If the symptom has been occurring for some time the doctor may want to know what made you decide to seek a doctor's opinion. Did the symptom change in some way or did someone say something to make you change their perception of the importance of your symptom.
  • Past medical history: Do you have any current medical problems? Have you ever received medical care and if so, what for? Have you ever been hospitalized? Have you ever had a test such as an X-ray or CAT scan?
  • Past surgical history: Have you ever been operated on and if so, when? Were there any complications?
  • Medications: Do you take any medication, supplements or herbal remedies? If so, what dose, how often and what is it meant to be treating?
  • Allergies/adverse reactions: Have you ever had an allergic or adverse reaction to any medication?
  • Smoking, drug and alcohol history: Have you ever, or do you currently smoke? How often and how much alcohol do you drink? Do you or have you ever taken any recreational drugs?
  • Obstetrics: Have you had any pregnancies? Were there any abnormalities or complications during any of the pregnancies?
  • Sexual activity: Are you sexually active? Do you have more than one sexual partner? Are any of your sexual partners of the same sex? Do you use any method of protection? Have you ever had an STD?
  • Screening tests: Finally, your doctor may want to know if you have recently had any screening tests such as a breast examination, pap smear etc.

Your answers to the doctor's questions help him/her to determine what other questions he needs to ask to gain the necessary information. The doctor uses all of this information to find out exactly what you are experiencing and thus making him/her better equipped to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

Summary of the questions your doctor may ask include:

  • How long have you had the symptom?
  • Have you had the symptom before if so, what was done about it?
  • How bad is the symptom?
  • Are the symptoms constantly present or does it come and go?
  • How do you symptoms affect your work or home life?
  • How do the symptoms affect how your feel?
  • Where is the symptom located and does it change over time?
  • Does anything appear to trigger the onset of the symptoms?
  • What makes your symptoms better or worse?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • Do you take any medication, supplements or herbal remedies? If so, what dose and how often and what is it treating?
  • Do you suffer from any allergies or adverse reactions to any drugs?
  • Do you have a history of or do you currently smoke or take recreational drugs?
  • Do you drink alcohol and if so, how much?
  • Have you had any previous surgeries? If so, where there any complications?
  • If you have had a pregnancy, were there any problems or complications?
  • Are you sexually active?
  • Do you have more than one sexual partner and if so are any of them of the same sex as you?
  • Do you use any protection during intercourse?
  • Have you ever had an STD?
  • Have you recently had any screening tests such as a breast examination or a Pap test?

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