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Questions to ask when you're sick

How to talk to your doctor and what you should be asking

When you're sick, it's especially important to keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctor during office appointments. In fact, you may want to take a spouse, relative or friend along to bring up questions or concerns that you haven't considered or have forgotten, as well as to provide support. Later, your companion can help you recall the details of what the doctor said.

Information is key

When faced with the prospect of a medical problem, the more information you have, the better. Ask your doctor questions including the following:

  • What does the diagnosis mean? (Ask your doctor if he or she has any literature on your condition.)
  • What caused the problem? (Asking about the cause may help prevent the condition from recurring.)
  • Do you need additional tests? If yes, what does the doctor hope to learn from them?
  • Do you need a prescription? If yes, what are the potential side effects and how should you handle them?
  • How soon can you expect your treatment to bring relief?
  • Do you need a follow-up appointment?

Before your visit, take a moment to write down any questions you want to ask your doctor (PDF).

An important partnership

Remember that your doctor is your partner as you work through your illness. Don't suffer in silence – tell him or her about any discomfort or side effects you are experiencing, and describe your symptoms completely. Tell the doctor if you feel a treatment or medication isn't working.

As your treatment continues, you may want to review the information your doctor has written about your condition and treatment. If so, request your medical records. And finally, if you are seeing a specialist for your condition and you have any concerns about the diagnosis or treatment recommendations, consider asking your PCP to write you a referral for a second opinion.