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How should I prepare for a doctor's appointment?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You can learn to be a better patient when you visit the doctor by making it a habit to arrive prepared and informed. Write down questions before you go so you won't forget any important points. If you've noticed a particular problem, write down your symptoms. Keep track of how often that problem bothers you. Make a copy to give your doctor. If you are going to see the doctor for a condition that is chronic, keep a log. If you have a pain that comes and goes, note when it comes and how long it lasts. Keep track of the foods you eat, the activities you perform, and anything else that might seem relevant. Write down all medicines including herbs, supplements, minerals, and vitamins you take, and the dosages you take. The more information your doctor has, the better he or she will be able to help you.

Even if a symptom seems too minor to be mentioned, err on the side of caution and tell your doctor anyway. Some conditions manifest in very odd ways. When something hasn't felt right for a while, it's probably not just in your head.

Get into the habit of doing research. Go to the library and look up a basic medical textbook, or use the Internet to find information on whatever ails you. A number of health information Web sites are run by major medical centers, and hundreds more are sponsored by organizations of varying credibility. Perhaps you will stumble across a description of exactly what you are experiencing but haven't been able to put into words. On the other hand, don't be a gullible reader.
Deepa Sharma, DO
Family Medicine
It’s good for your health to prepare for your doctor’s appointment: Research shows that patients who are more involved with their healthcare tend to get better results. Prepare questions about any symptoms or concerns you may have, and make sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. A brief overview of your health history gives your doctor a general idea of your condition: He or she will want to know if you have any chronic illnesses, past surgeries and any related complications, hospitalizations, urgent care visits or recurring problems. Make an effort to know your family medical history -- it can influence your health and help your doctor determine if you are at risk for developing a chronic disease or health condition in the future. 

Doctors want to be your advocate, help you stay healthy and work with you to improve your health. But in order to be successful, they have to be working with facts. Be open and honest about your eating, exercise and lifestyle habits, including smoking and drinking.

Before your appointment you should write down all of your symptoms. Also, you should have ready all of your medical information and a list of conditions that you have been treated for recently. Have the names of all of the medications that you are currently taking. It is advisable that you have someone else drive to the appointment because the pain from the diagnostic procedure can make driving unsafe.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.