Improve your healthcare appointments with this simple action

If you have at least one chronic illness, you will have multiple symptoms and problems. That’s just a fact. You health will never be still. It will ebb and flow like a river. And you won’t always know what direction it will meander next.

Published: February 11, 2017 | Last Updated: August 27, 2023
Tags: ankylosing spondylitis | chronic illness | healthcare | taking charge
doctor typing on a laptop

If you have at least one chronic illness, you will have multiple symptoms and problems. That’s just a fact.

You health will never be still. It will ebb and flow like a river. And you won’t always know what direction it will meander next.

Your symptoms of your condition will do the same. They will change. Sometimes you will find symptoms get better or resolve. Other times new ones appear, unfortunately.

So my question to you: do you record them? If not, I’d recommend that you start doing so and get yourself a Symptom History Sheet.

Why is this important?

Having a list of past and present symptoms could save you a whole bunch of time in you doctor’s appointments. This is more evident when you are seeing a new doctor for the first time. So doing what you can ahead of you appointment could help you maximize your time with your care provider.

What you don’t want to do in your appointment is waste time thinking about a question before you answer, then realizing you forgot something or got your dates wrong. By doing all this now you will save time in your appointment, because you can just read off the sheet or show it to the doctor to read. One of the other benefits, is that it helps you organize your thoughts and give each symptom on the sheet some form of priority or importance. This will help you down the road and help your doctor understand which symptoms are the most important to you.

What should a Symptom History Sheet include?

We could just make a list. Boy, do I love lists. But that wouldn’t suffice in this case. We need more detail.

As for what to add to this list, you can include any symptoms — physical, mental, or otherwise. Generally, it’s a good idea to note more than just the physical. This list also is for all your symptoms, not just ones related to a specific illness you have. Write it all down.

This history sheet is meant to be dynamic. It will change after each appointment and as each symptom has been attended to. You can print this sheet and fill it in by hand if you wish, but I would recommend filling it in on your computer and printing it off when you need to (assuming you have the facilities to do so). This will save you from rewriting the list now and then as things get added and removed. It’s a task that is much easier on a computer.

For this list, you are going to have seven sections, as follows:

Symptom— Keep it simple. The details are going to follow in the following sections. One to three words should suffice in most cases. For example, “heartburn” or “lower back pain.”

Duration & frequency— How often do you get it? Daily? Weekly? Or is it constant? How long does it last when you do have it? You get the idea.

Cause— Now comes the detail. What causes it? You may not know. And that’s cool. Leave it blank until the day comes when you find out. If you do know, write it down. For example, “after I eat” or “when I sit down.”

Relief— So we know what causes it, but now the doctor will want to know what helps relieve it. What do you do to help? Take a medication? Stretch? Change position? Drink a glass of milk? Whatever “works” (in the loose sense of the word) should be noted in this section. Also, note if the symptom goes away completely or not. Maybe it just “takes the edge off.”

Start date — This is hopefully self-explanatory. Note when it first appeared. Simple.

End date — Fill this section in when one of the following happens. Note the date if the symptom goes away because of an intervention, such as if a new medication is taken to treat it. Sometimes things just go away of their own accord, but it’s still something that should be recorded. After all, it could come back again in the future.

Action taken — A simple sentence detailing the steps taken to help relieve or reduce the symptom. For example, “medication prescribed” or “stopped eating fried food.”

I hope this helps you get a handle on your symptoms. As you can see, there potentially is a lot of information needed by the doctor for each symptom. Having it recorded in detail in a fairly easy-to-read format makes life easier for both you and your doctor, saving you a whole bunch of time in your appointment.

If this sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. I have a Symptom History Sheet on my website which you can download for FREE. To download you copy just go to my Resources Page here.

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below. How would you change the Symptom History Sheet?