- Steven Corn
The Importance of Tracking Your Symptoms
Why track your symptoms?
Well, have you ever visited a doctor and they asked: “How often have you been having this symptom or that? How bad has it been? Is there anything that makes it better or worse?”
If you’re like most people, it’s really difficult to remember all of this and more so if you’re not feeling well. And, as you try to remember back more than a few days, it can get very fuzzy, very quickly. Sadly, practically no one keeps a log of their symptoms except, perhaps, for diabetics who track their BGL and hypertensive patients who track their blood pressure.
But without accurate information, it’s hard for your doctor to make a good diagnosis and propose the right treatment. For example, how is a doctor supposed to treat a headache which can have, literally, hundreds of causes?
When I was much younger, I had very bad headaches but I knew that they were not migraines. I asked my doctor what could be causing this. He said: "It could be stress...It could be a brain tumor. Let's run some tests." (I know that sounds harsh. I happen to like dark humor like that and appreciated his candor.)
Now imagine I came into his office with a log of my headaches for the past 2-3 months. The doctor probably wouldn't have to run as many tests and could possibly diagnosis it right there and then. And with a proper diagnosis, I would have received the correct treatment.
The alternative is also true. Without clear data, the doctor could have made an inaccurate diagnosis and given me a treatment that not only could have been ineffective, it could have actually been harmful.
So, here's what you should log:
Time of Day
Symptom type (e.g., pain, dizziness, blurriness, breathing problems, etc.)
Location of the symptom (e.g., back of the head, chest, left kidney, neck, etc.)
Intensity (on a scale of 1-10)
What makes it worse
What makes it better
That's it. You don't need to create charts, graphs, or have a lot of complicated information. The idea is to keep it simple so that it's easy to log your symptoms and easy to read by those with whom you share the info.
That leads to the last, and perhaps, the most important aspect of a symptom log. It must be easily shareable. You will want to share it with your healthcare providers, family or other caretakers. And the simplest way to do so is via email, text or printing. Having a digital log (e.g., spreadsheet, word doc, etc.) is obviously the best format to enable easy sharing.
There are many apps on the market that do this. Most are very complicated and hard to use. I believe that my app, My Symptom Tracker, is the simplest and easiest way to track your symptoms and share the info. I invite you to check it out:
Click here: My Symptom Tracker