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Visiting Your Doctor


How to Be Your Own Health Care Advocate

If you are feeling any or some of the symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy (PN), you might be tempted to make an appointment with a podiatrist or physical therapist. However you are usually better off visiting your general practitioner first, talking about your symptoms, and asking for a referral to see a neurologist – a doctor who specializes in the nervous system.

In our experience, all patients need to become their own health care advocate to get the answers that you need so that you can best manage your health. As such, it is important you arrive to any exam prepared. Here are some tips to help you get ready for your appointment and to know what to expect.

  • Always try to bring a family member or friend with you. Sometimes it is difficult to remember everything the doctor is telling you, or you may forget to ask them something. If you do not have anyone that is able to attend your appointment, bring a note pad and pen and write down all of the information your doctor is telling you. Or bring a portable tape recorder. In the absence of bringing a family member or friend, you can authorize your doctor to discuss your health care with a specific family member or friend.
  • Write down any symptoms you are experiencing, including those symptoms you feel may be unrelated. If it is pain, keep a log of your daily pain from a scale of 0-10, 10 being the worst. Keep track of when you experience pain.
  • Make a list of all your medications, including vitamins and supplements.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor. You may not have time to ask all of the questions listed below. Pick a few that are the most important for you to get answers to, so you won’t be disappointed.
    • What is causing my symptoms?
    • Are there certain types of tests that can determine what I have and the cause?
    • Are the tests done in the hospital or doctor’s office and how long will they take?
    • Do the tests require any special preparation?
    • Will my insurance cover these tests
      • Ask them to explain what the tests will do and show.
    • Is the condition temporary or permanent?
    • What treatments are available and which are best for my condition
    • What, if any, are the side effects of any of the treatments?
    • What if the medication/treatment does not work?
    • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine, and if so, will it work the same?
    • How long will it take before the medication becomes effective?
    • Are there better times during the day I should take the medicine you are prescribing?
    • Are there any alternative medicines or procedures that I can do or take along with the other prescribed medications?
    • What, if any, dietary restrictions or best practices should I consider implementing?
    • Would physical or occupational therapy help?
    • What type of exercise do you recommend?
    • Do I need to restrict any activities?

Other things the doctor may be interested in having you bring are:

  • Previous medical records
  • Previous medical test results
  • Insurance information
  • List of other healthcare providers with their contact information

Some questions your doctor may ask you:

  • Do you have any underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, alcoholism, recently undergone any chemotherapy treatments?
  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • If you have pain, how severe are your symptoms and how often – are they continuous or occasional?
  • Are you doing or taking anything that improves your symptoms?
  • Is there anything that appears to worsen your symptoms?

It can be difficult to get the time we want when we visit the doctor. One of the best ways to have more time with the doctor is to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning – or right after lunch. But, if you arrive prepared, you can still make the most of your visit no matter the time. If you feel that you didn’t get all the answers you need, ask your doctor if it would be best to schedule another appointment to discuss additional concerns.

As we gather more information, we will share those resources with you to help you manage your peripheral neuropathy. If you have something that has been helpful for you that you think others may find useful, please contact us at [email protected] so we can share it.