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What to Tell Your Doctor When You're Sick

What to Tell Your Doctor When You're Sick

Here's a professional secret we want to share with you: We doctors depend on you as much as you depend on us to provide the best possible care. There's nothing we docs love more than seeing a smart patient (like you) walk into our offices. Have you read about a new treatment? Go on, ask! Give us articles -- in advance of your appointment if possible. Your being an informed consumer keeps us on our toes and you in peak health.

Here's how to get the most out of your next doctor's visit:

  • Make a list. It's the most important step: Jot down the reason you scheduled an appointment. You'd be amazed at what you forget once you're sitting eyeball to eyeball with a doc. 
  • No detail is too small. Describe your symptoms (write them down before your appointment -- and take your notes along): where, when, how often; what seems to make them better or worse; if anyone else at home or at work has them. Include current and past conditions, dates, and medications.
  • Ask questions. If your doc says you need a diagnostic test, it's fine to ask why. You can also ask, "What happens if I don't do it?"
  • Get a scribble translation. Don't be shy! If this is a new Rx, ask what all those crazy prescription scribbles mean and whether there's a cheaper generic version that's just as good. Find out whether the new med could interact with anything else you're taking (including vitamins, and even grapefruit juice).

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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