Your primary care doctor has many tools at their disposal to help diagnose any conditions you may have and keep you healthy. However, one of the most powerful tools your doctor can use to help diagnose you is under your control: information about you. It's not uncommon for patients to fail to report information to their doctor that could be helpful because they think it's too minor to mention or that it's unrelated to their health. But it's usually better to err on the side of giving too much information, not too little. You never know what could help a diagnosis. Take a look at some important things that your primary care doctor definitely needs to know about you.
What Over-The-Counter Medications You're Taking
Hopefully, you know that it's important to let your doctor know about any prescription medications that you're taking, since your symptoms may be caused by side effects or drug interactions. But many patients don't realize that it's just as important to list any over-the-counter medications that you're taking as well.
They may not require a prescription, but over-the-counter medications can still have side effects and can interact with each other and with prescription drugs. They're also not harmless – over-the-counter medications can be dangerous, especially if you're exceeding the recommended dosage. Some, like Benadryl, can even be addictive. Understanding what over-the-counter drugs you're taking can help your doctor understand important factors about your health.
Keep in mind that over-the-counter medications aren't just limited to things like cold medicine, allergy medicine, and headache medicine; vitamins, herbal supplements, energy supplements, and dietary aids should all be reported to your doctor as well.
Whether You're Fatigued
Fatigue is often underreported. Many patients just assume they're tired, as a result of being busy or staying up late. Or, if you're visiting the doctor for something like a cold, you might just assume the fatigue is caused by that and not worth mentioning since other symptoms like coughing and a sore throat seem more pressing.
What you may not know is that fatigue is a symptom. It's different from sleepiness, in that fatigue is usually ongoing, while sleepiness is temporary. It can be a symptom of a number of different conditions, ranging from mental health disorders to heart and lung problems to infectious diseases. If you're experiencing fatigue, your doctor needs to know – it could change your diagnosis. Don't dismiss it as just tiredness.
Whether You're Happy
When the cashier at your grocery store asks how you're doing today, it's fine to just say "fine", even if you're not. But when your doctor asks the same question, it's not just a pleasantry. Your doctor needs to know if you're feeling depressed, if you're under a lot of stress, or if you're going through a major life change like a divorce or a job change.
Why? Because in addition to helping your doctor diagnose mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, this information could also help explain physical symptoms that you're experiencing. Stress, anxiety, grief, and other non-physical conditions can result in physical symptoms like headaches, gastrointestinal problems, muscle pain, and even increased frequency of colds and infections.
Giving your doctor an idea of what's going on in your life – even if it doesn't seem medically relevant – can actually help your doctor reach a diagnosis and determine the most effective course of treatment to get you feeling better.
Think of your doctor like a police detective. The more clues they have, the sooner they'll solve the crime. And just like in police work, sometimes it's not obvious what is a clue and what isn't, so the more information you give them, the better.Share
23 June 2017
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