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Ever go blank when your doctor asks for specifics about your symptoms? Or get home and realize you forgot to tell them about that one weird symptom you had 2 months ago?

Tracking changes is an important part of making sure you get the best care. It helps your doctor spot patterns and better understand your condition. For instance, if you’ve noticed certain symptoms tend to show up in the morning, your doctor can help you figure out how to work around it. That could mean changing the time you take medication or something else.

But keeping a mental list usually isn’t enough. That’s where a symptom tracker comes in. It doesn’t have to be some fancy tool -- unless you’re into that. You can simply buy a small notebook to carry in your purse or back pocket with a pen. If you have a smartphone, you can download an app that helps you track symptoms -- there are hundreds to choose from. Or you can just jot them down in the “notes” section of your phone.

How you do it isn’t that important. It’s what you keep track of that matters. You’ll want to:

  • Track the day and time a symptom occurs.
  • Track how long it lasts (a few minutes, two hours, most of the day).
  • Rate the severity on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst.
  • Describe what it feels like (stinging, a dull ache, sharp pain, or something else).
  • Note if it interferes with your daily activities and if so, how.

Include anything else you think the doctor should know. No detail is too small. If you’re wondering whether you should tell them something, go ahead. It could be the missing piece to getting the care you need.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: Nattakorn Maneerat / EyeEm / Getty Images

SOURCES:

University of California San Francisco: “Using a Medical Calendar and Symptom Log.”
National Institute on Aging: “Pain: You Can Get Help,” “What Do I Need to Tell the Doctor?”