Communication with your medical team is key. Read on for useful tips for your doctor appointments, as well as a list of questions you may want to ask.
The Internet is a great resource for general information about epilepsy, but there’s no substitute for a consultation from a neurologist or epileptologist (a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy). The body is complicated, so when it comes to doctor-patient relationships, nothing is too icky, too embarrassing, or too dumb to discuss. What may seem awkward for you is unlikely to faze a doctor. This is their job, so the more details, the better. Sharing everything no matter how uncomfortable helps a doctor offer the most appropriate care. Being clear and honest every time you visit the doctor can help you get the most accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan possible. Good communication is vital to making the best choices for your health.
Preparing for your appointment with your neurologist by writing down a list of questions and concerns can help you make the most of the visit.
Bring the list so that you can discuss everything you want to ask. Otherwise a topic may be overlooked because your doctor doesn’t know it’s important to you.
If you’re worried about communication barriers such as foreign language, medical terminology, etc., you can bring a family member or friend. That person can simply listen and discuss with you later, or can speak on your behalf. Either way, once you’re in the office, let your doctor know you want your relationship to be a partnership, working together to make good health decisions. A healthy partnership means open sharing on the patient’s side, open sharing on your doctor’s side, and then an agreement on your end to follow the treatment plan.
During your appointment, be prepared to go into detail about your condition, treatment, medication, side effects, and expectations your doctor only knows as much as you reveal (see below for sample questions your doctor might ask). Share, share, share everything that’s happening to you, mentally and physically. Thoroughness is key to managing your health.
The next step is listening and asking follow up questions as necessary. Do you understand the diagnosis? Do you understand the treatment plan? Take notes to help remember everything.
Lastly, leave the office with contact information. Depending on your doctor and his or her practice, this may be the office phone number and email, or it may be the doctor’s personal contact information. If you’re unsure of anything you’ll know who to contact and how (call, email, etc.).
What are some questions the neurologist/epileptologist might ask?
Before you meet your neurologist, consider this list of questions you might be asked to help diagnose and treat your epilepsy. If you don’t remember what happens during a seizure, it can be helpful to bring a witness (someone who has been present during one your seizures) who can describe it on your behalf. Because there are many treatments for epilepsy your doctor requires as much information as possible to recommend the option best for you.
You should be able to answer the following questions:
How frequent are your seizures?
Do you have seizure symptoms or warning signs before a seizure?
Do you have difficulty concentrating?
Have you experienced a change in hair growth or loss?
What medications are you taking?
Are you happy with your current epilepsy treatment?
Does anyone else in your family have seizures?
You doctor may review your medical history, referring back to things like complications at birth, childhood illness, and head injuries. Letting your neurologist or epileptologist know about your past as well as the past for close family members can help determine what your specialist will recommend.
Written exclusively for EpilepsyAdvocate.com