Make the most of your doctor visit

Randall Stokes | American Profile

A visit to your doctor’s office can be stressful, especially when you are feeling ill. It’s normal to feel anxious or even a bit scared. Being prepared and knowing which questions you need to ask your doctor can make an office visit less stressful and more productive.

Be able to explain your problem. Your doctor can’t help you if you can’t explain what is wrong. You don’t need to make your own diagnosis, but you do need to be able to explain clearly your symptoms and concerns. Make a list of all symptoms, when each symptom started, what makes the symptoms worse, what seems to make the symptoms better and any other relevant information pertaining to your problem. Don’t rely on your memory. Write it all down.

Make a list of medications. Make a separate list detailing any medications you are currently taking or have taken recently. Include everything, even over-the-counter medications such as allergy medicines and pain relievers. List how much you take and how often. The National Institutes of Health suggests including any vitamins or herbal remedies as well.

Be prepared to take notes. Sitting in the doctor’s office as he explains your condition and possible treatments can make you feel overwhelmed. Keeping calm and focused is important. It also is important to take notes. Write down the specifics, especially treatment procedures. Often your doctor will have informational pamphlets that can help you understand your condition easier. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask and then record the answer where you can refer to it later.

Ask questions. Your doctor is there to help you. She will answer your questions, and if those questions are not answered to your satisfaction, you will be referred to a specialist who can help. Ask about medications. Will they interact with any you are already taking? Ask about duration of treatment and how it may affect your daily routine. Don’t be afraid to ask if a less expensive generic alternative is available for a medication.

Don’t go alone. Basic office visits for colds, check ups and other routine medical care can be tackled solo. However, if your doctor’s visit is for something more, consider asking a loved one or a trusted friend to accompany you. Having another person there can help ease your anxiety while providing needed support.