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What to tell your doctor about your symptoms

When you go for a doctor's visit, one of the most important things to do is to accurately communicate all your symptoms to the doctor. This assists the doctor in the diagnosis process.

It is important to let your doctor know when the symptoms started, how long they've been going for and whether they are continuous or do they come and go. If you've noticed any triggers for your symptoms, they also need to be communicated to your doctor. In order to give your doctor a better picture of how your symptoms affect you, it helps to describe your symptoms (e.g. sharp pain, sudden nausea, dull ache) and perhaps even rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. It is also of value to describe how the symptoms affect your feelings. For example pain may make you depressed or anxious. Symptoms may also impact on your work or home life to various degrees and this is also important information for the doctor. For example, severe lethargy may make you unable to work regularly which helps the doctor assess the severity of your symptoms and condition.

In discussing your symptoms it is also necessary to mention any drugs, supplements or herbal remedies you are currently taking as well as any recent surgeries or current treatments by other doctors. It is important to be honest with your doctor and put aside any embarrassment as your information often forms the sole basis for the doctors diagnosis. For example, don't be afraid to mention any recreational drug use, alcohol abuse or sexual matters which may be affecting your health remember it is unlikely that you will say anything that the doctor hasn't heard before.

Below is a summary of the main points to remember when discussing your symptoms with your doctor:

  • What your symptoms are.
  • How severe your symptoms are can use descriptive words or 1-10 scale.
  • When your symptoms started.
  • Whether your symptoms come and go or are constant.
  • Whether anything appears to trigger the symptom.
  • How your symptoms affect how your feel.
  • How your symptoms affect your work or home life.
  • What drugs, herbal remedies or supplements are being currently taken.
  • Any prior surgeries.
  • Any current treatments by another doctor or specialist.

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