Why You Need to Be Tracking Your Symptoms for Your Medical Team
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease that can fluctuate at any time. It’s difficult to predict something that behaves so unexpectedly, but one thing you can do to feel in control is track your symptoms.
Those on our medical team often tell us to take notes about our symptoms before appointments so we can provide clinicians with as much detail as possible, right? The problem with this is that we don’t receive any information about how to track symptoms quickly and effectively to better help clinicians.
Clinicians mostly rely on us to remember details. They’ll ask us questions like, “When did you start this treatment?” Or, “How long has that symptom been happening?” Or, “Did you take anything when this started?” The answers to these types of questions can be game changers in terms of our health outcomes.
But that means we must rely on remembering information about things that happened a long time ago. Who’s to say that the events actually happened like we remember them? Any information given to your clinician is crucial, particularly for treatment plans. Misremembered or bad information can lead to unnecessary tests, medications, or scans, which cost us time, money, and a lot of our precious energy.
Tracking our symptoms is our way of feeling empowered in our healthcare management. It ensures that medical personnel — particularly if you see several doctors — have an up-to-date and reliable record of symptoms so they can treat them more effectively and accurately.
But how do we track symptoms effectively and provide that information to members of our healthcare team?
How to do it
Many options are out there to help us track our symptoms. The main one that most people think of are symptom-tracking apps on your watch or phone. These tracking apps provide many benefits, and you can use more than one, based on your needs.
The main benefit of using an app like this is that you’ll have your symptom notes within easy reach on your phone or wrist, and that information will constantly be with you. Most people usually have their phone or watch on them, so it makes sense to use these items to track symptoms.
Just be sure to keep your devices charged. Personally, the thought of my phone dying before an appointment causes me too much anxiety to use this option to track my symptoms!
Another thing that worries me about these apps is that they are not necessarily the most secure. Who knows who actually sees your personal health-related information. (Although to be fair, most apps like these provide information about security and how your information will be used so that you can read it before downloading.)
Despite the ease of technology, and given the privacy concerns, I prefer the old-fashioned way of writing things down. I always feel more emotionally connected to something if I’ve spent the time writing it down. It’s why I write in a journal each morning, and why I don’t ever email myself. I love having something I can use to have some “me time.” I believe I know myself much better because of it.
Given all of this, I decided to create a symptom tracker book that is an actual book. It had to be. I have an artistic and graphic design background, so if you saw the words “symptom tracker” and thought it would be overwhelmingly medical-looking, think again! In making it, I took the principles of fun, beauty, and bullet journaling and adapted them to suit chronic illness.
The best part of using a symptom tracker book is that no batteries are required, and there is no complicated technology to wrap your head around.
One of my favorite things about tracking my symptoms in a book (other than having an excuse to buy more colored pens, of course) is that it has graphs. I’ve learned that healthcare people love information in a graph. They understand graphs. And you can scan your graphs and give them to the doctor to add to your medical file.
Graphs are the main recommendation doctors provided me when I asked for feedback. Doctors said that graphs make everything more transparent and precise, and help to determine if a patient’s symptoms are improving or worsening.
Remember, a doctor only has a short amount of time with you during an appointment, so make it count. If you can be as clear and accurate as possible, you’re more likely to receive the treatments that best work for you.
Stop relying on your iffy brain and start keeping accurate info about your health for your own records, as well as for your doctors. By doing so, you can start getting the best possible treatment and care that you deserve.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.