What to include in a symptom diary
Keeping a diary of your symptoms is a useful way of understanding just how much they are affecting your daily life. It helps let your doctor know what these symptoms are and if there is any pattern to them and what is happening to you as a whole.
Often when we go to a medical appointment, we take many worries with us: whether there is something wrong with us, what will happen, will we get confused by the medical terms, will we find out if anything can be done?
When we are thinking about all of these things and that we have work, families, and commitments that we are taking time out from, we might forget some of what we want to tell our doctors. Or questions can go unasked.
A symptom diary sets everything out so we don’t have to worry about forgetting something important.
Understanding your symptoms
Your doctor will want to understand your symptoms for a number of reasons. Many conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovaries can have similar symptoms making diagnosis more complex.
It can also help your consultant develop a personalised treatment plan. For example, tailoring menopause treatment for the symptoms which you are experiencing and that is having the most impact on your life.
Things to include
Symptoms – This might seem obvious but make sure you list out what your symptoms are and how they feel is important.
Putting that you have cramps is great but better would be how painful those cramps feel. If you have pelvic pain regularly, then use a 1-10 scale with 5 being your average pain, 1 as a slight niggle and 10 as the cramps at their worst.
This way you can see what else is happening in your life when you get certain symptoms.
Dates – Putting a date next to your symptoms will help you keep a track of them. Knowing if your symptoms have a cycle to them can also help you predict when you might be next suffering.
Times – If you get hot flushes mainly at night, then make a note of this. Like with the dates of your symptoms the timing of them can give you some useful information.
Additional information – You may get asked to keep a record of your diet, exercise or significant events that are happening in your life to understand the whole problem rather than the symptoms on their own. Your consultant will let you know if you need to track additional information.
How to keep a symptom diary
You need to be consistent with your symptom diary so find a system that works for you. A small notebook and pen can work just as well as an app on your phone.
The important thing is that you can access it when you experience your symptoms so you can record them at the time.
You can use an app specifically to track your symptoms. There are even ones available that have been designed by clinicians. At Hormone Health we have designed our own symptom diary, which you may wish to use.
You’ll be more likely to keep accurate tracking if you use something that fits into your life already so decide what that looks like for you.
Finally, make sure you take your symptom diary with you to your appointment. You’ll be able to look through this with your consultant and they will get a better understanding of how your symptoms are presenting.