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How to Track Your Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on October 01, 2020

Writing down your symptoms helps you remember what happened, when, and what they were like. This information may help your doctor to diagnose your condition and understand how it affects you. They can recommend tests, procedures, and treatments.

You can also see:

  • Symptom trends
  • How your energy can go up and down
  • The impact of specific food or medicine

Plus, when you meet with your doctor, you are ready to answer detailed questions about your symptoms.

What to Include

Symptoms can take many different forms, depending on the condition and your own situation. You might have pain, a fever, sleep problems, changes in any number of physical things your body does, as well as changes in your mood or thinking. They may change over time and vary from person to person.

Track any issues you have that are related to your health.

At the end of the day or week, note the date and this information about your symptoms:

  • What you noticed
  • If the symptoms are new
  • The time they start
  • How long they last
  • How strong they are. A way to do this is by rating them from 0-10. A 0 means you don’t have the symptom and 10 is the most intense version of it. You should also note if it’s getting more or less extreme, or changing in another way.
  • Any other symptoms they’re connected to
  • If something brings on the symptoms
  • Treatments you try (including those that need a prescription and those that don’t), how well they work, and any side effects you have
  • Anything you think might affect the symptoms for better or worse, including diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits.

You may also want to answer these questions about your symptoms:

  • Do I have them all the time? If not, when do they come and go?
  • Do they impact my everyday life? If so, which ones do and in what ways?
  • Are there ways I make any of them better or worse?

You can also jot down your thoughts and feelings about what’s going on.

Add any questions you want to ask your doctor.

Explaining Pain

The details of how your body hurts can help your doctor understand what you’re experiencing. Use these questions along with the others to help guide you as you record it:

  • Where do you feel it?
  • What words would you use to describe it? For instance, is the pain dull or sharp? Does it come and go, happen suddenly, or last a long time?

Ways to Track Your Symptoms

You should choose a system that’s easy for you to use, you have enough time for, and works for other aspects of your life, like whether you prefer an app or a paper record.

You can use a:

  • Calendar with room to write
  • Notebook
  • Paper log your doctor’s office might have or an online form that you can print out
  • Smartphone or computer application/website
  • Voice memos that you keep on your phone

Keep in Mind

Sometimes, symptoms may feel more intense when you’re focusing intensely on them. Try to track them as they come up so you can give your doctor information that matches what you are truly experiencing.

If you want to log your symptoms but can’t for some reason or don’t think you will do it regularly, talk to your doctor about what could cause this and a possible solution.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute on Aging: “Pain: You Can Get Help,” “What Do I Need to Tell the Doctor?”

Multiple Sclerosis Trust: “Diary of symptoms.”

Family Practice Management: “The Use of Symptom Diaries in Outpatient Care,” “General Symptom Diary.”

The University of California San Francisco Medical Center: “Using a Medical Calendar and Symptom Log.”

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