It’s becoming increasingly popular to turn to sites such as WebMD and Right Diagnosis before making that dreaded trip to the doctor’s office or, even worse, the emergency department, in hopes of avoiding it altogether. As medical documentation specialists, however, the last thing we really need is access to more symptom lists. See, for most of the population, finding out that a couple of common symptoms are likely just related to stress eases the mind and provides a reason to relax for the evening with a good book and a glass of wine. We’re not part of that population. No, often we’re part of the minority who look right past the suggested stress-related diagnosis and jaw-drop at the one about sixteenth down the list: Mumps. Or meningitis. Or any other detrimental illness we can spot. Why? Because just last week we listened to a report about someone who presented with the same symptoms we now have and they were given a rather bleak outlook. Okay, so maybe not quite exactly the same symptoms we have, but certainly most of them. Fine, if you really want to split hairs, we at least share some of the same symptoms. I mean, let’s be real here—a headache is a pretty significant symptom to share with someone who has mumps. And I just so happen to have a headache.
It can be easy to let our minds get the best of us simply because we are exposed to serious medical narratives on a daily basis. Interestingly, while we are wondering if we might have Lyme disease despite never having been bitten by a tick, we somehow manage to talk ourselves out of the possibility of having DVT or other conditions that can be related to sedentary careers. How can we find a balance?
Firstly, don’t ignore symptoms. Early diagnosis of any condition, minor or major, is often a key in successful and speedy treatment. Even if it turns out there is nothing wrong with you in connection to some temporary symptoms, trying to convince yourself that your symptoms are imaginary or too insignificant to bother with can cause an increase in stress level and poor sleep hygiene.
Secondly, do write your symptoms down and include helpful details such as the time, duration, and intensity. If it’s possible there’s a food trigger behind it, write down what you recall eating for each meal and snack, especially anything that might be a bit out of the ordinary for you, such as that Oprah Cinnamon Chai Tea Latte you decided to try because it Looked. So. Good.
Lastly and importantly, find a doctor you love. If you lack confidence in your doctor, you’ll find yourself second-guessing his or her assessment and plan. Instead of having your mind put at ease, you’ll start stressing about whether you should seek a second opinion and the extra expense it might incur. If you feel your doctor isn’t listening to everything you’re saying, you’ll wonder if he or she missed important details that would affect your diagnosis. I really can’t stress enough how important it is to find a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with. If those aren’t words that come to mind when you think of your doctor, keep shopping around until you find a good fit.
Becoming fluent in medicalese can be amusing and fun at times, especially when playing word games like Scrabble, but don’t let it beat you at your own game, and play smart when it comes to your health!