Endometriosis Symptom History
If you are concerned that you may have endometriosis, or are experiencing possible endometriosis-related symptoms, the first step in the diagnostic process is to visit a healthcare provider. You may want to bring up your concerns to your primary care provider, to see if they recommend that you see a specialist, or you might want to head right to your OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist) who specializes in women's health conditions, including endometriosis. No matter who you see, one of the first things they will do is take your medical and symptom history. This is a critical step in allowing your provider to understand what's going on with your body. A medical history contains information on an individual's past health-related events, such as any previous medical conditions, procedures, or history of any conditions running in their family. A symptom history focuses on the issues an individual is struggling with in the present, or recent past that may shed light on any underlying, larger issues.
Providing the most accurate information possible is the best way to help your provider collect a full medical and symptom history. Questions you may be asked may vary based on the provider you see, and what they suspect is going on, however, there are several things you can do to be prepared for any question that gets asked. These include the below strategies.1-3
Be prepared to present your symptoms
It is inevitable that your provider will ask you to describe the symptoms you've been experiencing during the visit. Sometimes, when individuals are put on the spot to describe what's going on, they may not remember everything that's important. Keeping a journal of issues you've been facing, including when they normally occur and any defining characteristics they have, may be valuable in these situations. For example, if you're experiencing pelvic pain, writing down when this happens and what it feels like may be helpful for your provider. Having all of the information in front of you may illuminate trends, such as pain fluctuations around your period. Having a thorough record of these issues allows for all pertinent details to be brought to your provider's attention, leading to a full symptom history.
Know what medications and supplements you're taking
Certain medications and supplements may impact pain levels or may interact with one another in various ways. Because of this, your doctor may ask you to list any medications, vitamins, or supplements that you're currently taking. Having a list in advance may prevent you from forgetting anything that could be critical. Along the same lines, jotting down your typical diet or exercise plan may be helpful as well, in case you're asked about this, too.
Collect information on your family history
Certain conditions tend to run in families. Although the exact reason for why this occurs may not be well understood in some cases (such as for endometriosis), it may help alert your provider to a particular condition or experience that you might be prone to. This may help not only for the diagnosis of a condition, but also when prescribing medication. For example, if a history of blood clotting runs in your family, and a side effect of a medication that your provider is considering prescribing carries an increased risk of developing blood clots, they may decide to avoid this medication. Consulting family members and writing down any prevalent conditions or trends within your family may help you provide a complete picture of your health when asked.
Bring a knowledgeable supporter
Depending on the nature of your appointment, you may not feel comfortable bringing a family member, spouse, partner, or friend with you. However, if you are open to bringing a supporter along, they may be able to help you provide additional details of your medical and symptom history. For example, a partner may notice that your mood or energy levels have changed, or a family member, such as a parent, may be able to provide additional information on your family's medical history if a question arises that you can't answer on your own.
Bring applicable medical records
Not all appointments require that you bring previous medical records, however, in some cases, this may be beneficial. As an example, if the appointment you're going to is to get a second (or third or more) opinion on a diagnosis or treatment that's been recommended, bringing recent copies of diagnostic exams may save time and money, as well as lead to a more complete picture painted for your new provider. Having copies of recent imaging tests or the report from a laparoscopy used to diagnose endometriosis may help your provider jump into the picture where everyone else has left off. This may also help prevent duplicate tests from being performed.
Record the outcome of the appointment
Whenever you leave an appointment, it may be a good idea to record what happened. This way, the next time you see a new provider, you'll have an up-to-date record of your own on what has been happening in the recent past. This may help you inform other specialists in a similar way as your tests results or diagnostic exams, further letting them in on what's been going on.
Overall, you can never be too prepared for the medical and symptom history portion of a diagnostic exam. Creating the most vivid and detailed picture of your past and present help may make a big difference in the chances of receiving a swift and correct diagnosis.