When it comes to talking to your doctor, the way you do it may be just as important as what you say. So, here’s how to take control of your next appointment, courtesy of Health magazine.
- First and foremost: Be specific. Dr. Marianne Legato is a women’s-health expert at Columbia University. She says instead of just complaining about your pain, describe it. For example, “Six weeks ago, I started having achy upper arms and thighs, and the joints of my fingers hurt. I’ve tried to control the pain with Tylenol, but it hasn’t stopped.” Specific details like this will help your doctor nail down what might be bothering you, while informing him which medications are in your system.
- Keep it fairly short. Bringing in 10 pages of symptoms is not helpful to your doctor. Your best bet is to present three key symptoms. For example, tell the doctor where the pain is, what makes it better and worse, and how often you get it.
- Another valuable tip for your next medical appointment: Know your family history, especially about autoimmune diseases - like lupus or Crohn’s disease. Virginia Ladd is president of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. She says they tend to run in families, but not as the same disease. That kind of history isn’t asked on a basic medical form.
- Also: Ask for what you want. Ladd says that if you’re assertive and say, “I want to be checked for this and this” - doctors more-or-less have an obligation to do those tests.
- Don’t apologize. Many people, especially women, say things like, “I hate to bother you.” DON’T do this. Your appointment is a business transaction - docs aren’t doing you a favor. They’re paid to listen to everything you say.
- Understand the next steps. After every appointment, ask: “What’s your impression of the reason for my symptoms?” “What lab tests are you ordering and why?” “What’s your plan for easing my symptoms?” These questions will help put your mind at ease, and tell you what you need to know in order to move forward.