It can be hard going to the doctor and creating a timeline for whatever illness or symptoms brought you there. Often times patients are asked to paint a picture of, not only what happened but, when it happened, this helps the doctor create a timeline and can cause differentials (this means possible causes or diagnoses) to jump out.
Here are some tips on how you can better create a timeline:
Avoid subjective phrases:
Using phrases like: sometimes, long time, a while ago among others can cause confusion because they do not help narrow down a duration. Each of these words can mean different durations to each patient. I’ve had patients who called 2 weeks a long time and 20 years a long time- quite a different.
Be as specific as you can:
If you know the exact time and date when something started say it, even if it seems ridiculous and irrelevant- let us decide the relevance of the information. The more information about the time, duration and frequency you can give the better.
Don’t worry if you can’t remember:
I often hear patients say they don’t want to lie when asked when something started. If you don’t remember the exact date- that’s completely okay, the next step is giving an estimate or even a range- more than a week but less than two weeks, 2-3 years or more than 10 years but less than 15 are good ways to express the duration of something.
If you have multiple symptoms, give the timeline for those:
Sometimes saying x came first then y and finally z is enough, but it can also be beneficial to give the time period, x started first and y five days later. After 7 days in total X and Y finished Z happened, and so on.
Creating a timeline is a good way to understand symptoms and come up with potential causes of your illness. The doctors aim is to guide you with specific questions and prompts, if needed, to further understand the timeline of your symptoms.
Did I miss any tips?
Samantha C. Johnson