Symptom logging

A lot of people have been telling me how important it is to document your symptoms when you are undiagnosed, the things that you write down could help doctors and other health care professionals diagnose you.

Clearly it is almost impossible to expect a doctor to remember every symptom you have if you say a whole list of symptoms at once. Instead, it might be easier for your doctor to treat and diagnose you if you have written a list of your symptoms and point out the worst ones which need the most attention. That isn’t to say that milder symptoms aren’t important, it’s just extremely hard for a doctor to deal with every symptom at once… You do, however, need to let them know all of your symptoms so leaving a list with the doctor is good as they can go through it when they have more time to think.

It is important that you get the doctor all the information you can about the symptoms that you are experiencing. I do not mean google each symptom to death, but instead note down when your symptoms are worst, for example if your joint pain is worse after exercise or in the morning. And it is also important to show how much pain you are in. I know health care professionals like the pain scale 1-10, and so that is the pain scale I use. My rheumatologist also likes to know exactly which joints are hurting, and when, and how long my morning stiffness lasts. Which are things I always include when I am writing down how I am doing in my symptom log.

I also include if I have needed any pain medication, how many showers/baths I have taken because of the pain and stiffness, how many heat packs and/or ice packs I have used and which areas I have needed these packs. I also write if I have woken in the night at any point because of my joints, and also include a comments section in case there is anything that I want to say. (I also include when my menstrual cycle starts and ends to see if that has any relationship to my joint problems).

Logging symptoms is not only important when you are trying to get a diagnosis but it is also really good when monitoring your condition. My asthma nurse has given me a symptom and peak flow log which lets me put my best morning and night peak flows onto a graph, note how much ventolin I have needed, how much Symbicort I have taken (this varies since she trusts me to up my Symbicort, to a certain amount, when I need and drop it when I feel comfortable), but it also lets me write if I have had any symptoms, if the symptoms have had any affect on my activity levels and if I have woken in the night from my asthma. This has been a really great tool in tailoring my asthma treatment and although we aren’t quite there yet. It allows up to compare my peak flow and symptoms to earlier in the year and since I write down what I believe trigger my attacks and exacerbations it also allows my nurse to see which triggers my attacks most often and allows her to advise me on the best ways to avoid these triggers.

To be honest, I don’t think I would be able to remember exactly when my asthma is triggered or all of my symptoms in an appointment when there are so many other things going on, so symptom logs just help me keep track of everything and bring up points that I need to, as well as letting my doctors know of any issues I have had.

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