If you are trying to show your physician what you are experiencing at home with yourself or your loved one, symptom tracking is the key. It’s the one thing that saved our son from additional extensive testing. It’s what helped our doctor make a differential diagnosis with very little follow-up testing.
How to Symptom Track
Symptom tracking requires excellent organizational skills, some thought, and great record keeping. My recommendation is you create a tracking notebook/journal. I go into exact detail in a step-by-step process in my book How To Get A Diagnosis. All the tools and steps are provided in a downloadable format to help you organize your symptoms.
You are going to keep and include detailed reports of:
- Doctor visits (tool included with the book). You get a FREE health history started tool with this post here.
- Symptoms you or your loved one has during episodes. Also, track related symptoms during non-episodic or recovery periods. Specific methods for organizing and tracking these in a way that makes sense to your physician are part of my book. This includes charts as well as longer journaling with descriptions.
- Severity classifications of each symptom.
- What body group does the symptom belong with? This can be tracked on a body chart. (Included with the book).
- Test results from each test run on yourself or your loved one.
What’s the point of this type of notebook and organizational system?
Keeping track of symptoms by body region helps you and your physician eliminate diagnosis. This type of charting also helps you all see patterns in symptoms. Your whole entire body and every system are likely not affected by whatever ails you. Specific systems have specific symptoms. Knowing patterns in these body groups and associated symptoms are important to getting a correct diagnosis.
Keeping track of symptoms in a longer journal format, versus on a chart of the body or in a graph is also important. Some symptoms might not be easily classifiable on a body chart or a graph/spreadsheet. You might need to give a longer description. That description might be key to your physician determining the cause of your suffering. It’s important to be sure to track both ways.
Why track doctor appointments and test results?
Including appointment notes and test results is important. Sometimes there is a lag or delay in files reaching the correct specialist. If you have kept all doctor notes you made (tool in the book) as well as the printout of the information provided after each doctor visit, you can make a copy before any appointment. You can hand the results right to the new physician yourself. No waiting around for other people to take care of it for you.
In this country, you are required to get access to a patient portal to access records and results. You can print all records and results from these portals. Be sure to ask your physician for access to yours.
Recommendations on Tracking
Be sure to track after and during each episode and recovery period. If you had a lapse in symptoms but they flare again continue tracking. You should continue to track the first year following a diagnosis. This helps solidify the diagnosis.
You can use your tracking for research, but it’s really for your physician. It is to show them exactly what is happening to you when they are not with you.
If your doctor doesn’t provide notes after a visit be sure you take the time to complete a doctor visit summary sheet (book), or create one yourself to keep track of what happened. Be sure to complete it directly after the visit. It will be fresh in your mind and will be most accurate.
What if you have had symptoms for a long time and never thought about tracking?
You can always start now. Of course, you can go back in time in your journal and notes and write down what you can remember. Try not to speculate back in time. If you remember it clearly and you are over 100% certain of what you are writing down – include it. If you are unclear it should be excluded with a note that you had an appointment or symptom, but you cannot remember what happened.
Get organized and get tracking. The more you track the better you will see your health history and patterns. You will be one step closer to an answer or help.