If you’re seeing your doctor about a specific, niggling ailment, there are a few things you can do before and during your appointment to make sure you get the right diagnosis.
The same prep applies if you have been diagnosed, but aren’t happy or convinced with what the doctor has recommended.
Here, Vivienne Heckford, National Director of Clinical Services for Ramsay Health Care UK, reveals her top tips on what to do if you feel you may have been misdiagnosed.
Before your appointment…
Keep a symptom diary
Vivienne suggests keeping a diary of your symptoms in the days or weeks leading up to your appointment.
“As symptoms can occur at different times of the day, or in different scenarios, it can be easy to forget some of them when you’re sat in the doctor’s room.
“It may also help the doctor asses your symptoms more accurately if they know when and how they occur. If you took any medicines to relieve your symptoms, make sure to make a note of them and whether or not they relieved your symptoms, as well as how they made you feel.”
Consider what you really want to know
When you get in the doctor’s surgery, you can feel overwhelmed, scared and frightened - and easily forget the things you’ve been meaning to ask the doctor.
“Write down what you want to talk to the doctor about, and if you have any specific concerns or questions relating to your symptoms. This will help you get the most out of your appointment,” suggests Vivienne.
Know your medical history
“Write a list of what's been done so far - any tests you've had, including X-rays, MRIs, blood work,” advises Vivienne. “It’s also useful to bear in mind any previous illnesses or conditions that you have had in the past as they may be relevant to your current condition. Although your doctor should have access to your records it is useful for you to keep your own history in mind too.”
Know your family medical history, too
If you’re not already familiar with your family’s medical history, it’s worth taking the time to speak to your relatives about any conditions family members have or had – as some conditions and diseases may run through your family.
Vivienne explains: “Many conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and even depression can give an increased chance of being affected and so it’s important to know if anyone else in your family has suffered with them.”
At your appointment…
Bring in any medication
Bring in any medicines you’re taking, so you can chat through them with your doctor and ensure you’re taking them correctly.
Be specific with your symptoms
Using your notes will help you be more precise with how you are feeling, and more importantly, how you have been feeling. Especially as some of the aches and pains might not be present on the day.
“If you've got a pain, is it a shooting, sharp pain or a dull ache? Does it come and go after eating? How long does it last? A few seconds? A few minutes? How long have you had it? A week? A month? A year? Does anything decrease the pain? Make sure that you don’t diagnose yourself as you describe your symptoms, explain the symptoms as plainly and clearly as possible.”
Questions you should ask, explains Vivienne, include: “What do they need to make a diagnosis? What's the list of diagnoses it could be? Are there other specialists, procedures, or tests that would help make the diagnosis? When should you have your next appointment and what information can you bring to help make the diagnosis?”
What to expect
If your doctor does make a diagnosis, ask what you should expect in terms of period of recovery, and any changes to your lifestyle you can make. Vivienne adds: “Also ask if there are any warning signs or symptoms you should watch out for that would indicate that your recovery isn’t being as successful as it should be and at what point should you seek medical assistance.”