A visit to the doctor
You may need to visit your doctor for advice about symptoms or other health issues, or your doctor may ask you to come in for regular checkups or to discuss ongoing treatment. What happens during the consultation depends on its purpose, but your doctor usually assesses your health by observation, asking you questions, and carrying out a physical examination. Samples may also be collected for testing.
You may decide to visit your doctor because you feel ill or because you are concerned about a physical change, such as a swelling or stiffness in a joint. You may need advice about a lifestyle change, such as losing weight or giving up smoking. If you have a long-term condition, such as diabetes mellitus, you will need regular checkups. Even if you are healthy, you may be asked to attend the surgery for screening procedures, such as blood pressure measurement and cervical smear tests.
Preparing for a doctor's visit
Whatever your reason for visiting your doctor, you may find it helpful to decide on the issues that you want to discuss before you have the appointment. For example, if you have specific symptoms, you should think about how often they occur and whether certain activities bring the symptoms on or relieve them. Your doctor also needs to know about medications or supplements that you are taking, allergies that you have to particular treatments, and any alternative therapies that you are currently using.
The consultation with your doctor
There are many ways in which your doctor can assess your health. First of all, he or she will note your general appearance, such as your weight, and look for signs of anxiety or depression. Your doctor will then ask you a series of questions, known as taking your medical history, before he or she performs a physical examination. The questions that you are asked and the extent of the physical examination depend on the purpose of the consultation.
If you are visiting a doctor for the first time, he or she may take a full medical history, including details of diseases that run in your family, illnesses that you have had in the past, and lifestyle factors such as your diet. If the doctor already has your medical record, he or she may refer to it. If you have specific symptoms, the doctor will concentrate on them in order to make a diagnosis.
A full physical examination is usually given only as part of a general checkup, such as for a new insurance policy. If you have symptoms, the doctor usually checks only relevant areas of your body. Even if you are not given a full examination, your doctor may inspect certain areas, such as your skin and nails, to assess your general health.
Your doctor may need to collect a sample, such as blood or urine. Samples are tested to confirm a diagnosis or to monitor a disease. Simple tests may be performed in the doctor's surgery, but more complex procedures are usually carried out in a laboratory. The doctor may ask you to telephone the surgery for the test results or to make another appointment to discuss the results and their implications for your health.
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