Have you ever left a doctor’s appointment and remembered an important question on the way home?
This happened to me recently. The appointment was for a minor issue and my doctor is very warm and easy to talk to. I wasn't too worried but there was something I really wanted to ask her.
I thought of it on the way to the appointment. I even remembered it during the appointment (while she was explaining something, and I didn’t want to interrupt her). Then I remembered it again after the appointment – when it was too late to ask her!
If you have decided to see your doctor about the difficulties you are having with your balance, then you want to make the most of the appointment. You don’t want to remember your most pertinent question when you are driving home or drinking a cup of tea later that afternoon.
I pulled together some suggestions to help our members prepare for appointments with their doctors and thought they might help you as well.
Planning ahead and being well prepared will help you to make the most of your appointment. It will also enable your doctor to make the best possible diagnosis and treatment plan.
How does it feel?
When you are struggling with your balance, your doctor will want to know as much as possible about your symptoms. Difficulties with balance can feel very different from one person to another (even if we use the same words).
Are you feeling dizzy or lightheaded? Do you feel as if the world is spinning around or like you just stepped off a boat? Do you feel as if you are tripping over your own feet, or that you might faint?
Write down what it feels like when it happens, so you have as much information as possible. Many people find it helpful to keep a notebook with them. Some people use note apps on their phones, and others like to use a voice recorder app when they are out and then write it down later.
When and where does it happen?
Also, make a note of when and where you get these sensations. It could be when you are standing up, when you move your head in a certain direction or when you exercise. Write down where you are and what you did/ what happened just before.
How long does it last?
Your doctor may want to know how long the sensation lasted. Was it seconds, minutes, hours or even longer? Was it constant or did the feeling come and go?
What else do you notice?
Record any other sensations or things you notice at the same time. These could vary from hearing symptoms, shortness of breath, headaches, weakness in your arms or legs or visual disturbances.
What your doctor needs to know
Make sure that the doctor you see has access to your full medical history. They should also be aware of any recent procedures, new diagnoses from other medical professionals and any new medications you are taking [link].
Take any recent letters from other medical professionals (e.g. physiotherapists, hospital consultants) with you. Even if the letter has been sent to your doctor, they may not have read it yet. It could be on their system, but they are unable to access it immediately at your appointment.
It will also help if you have your most recent prescription notes. Some people even take their actual medications with them.
What else can you do?
Get to your appointment early, so you aren’t rushed when you do see your doctor. I know there’s a good chance you will have to wait a while, so arriving early is not a very tempting prospect. However, it means that whatever happens on the way (traffic, delayed buses, bumping into a friend, trouble paying for your car parking), you will be there in good time. I like to take a good book and plan for a bit of a wait. If it’s a really good book, you might even find yourself annoyed if the doctor calls you in on time!
Whether you catch up on your reading or just people-watch in the waiting room, there are several reasons why it is good to arrive early. It will be easier for your doctor to examine you if you are relaxed (we all know what a traffic jam or difficulty finding a parking space can do to our blood pressure). When you feel calm and composed, you will be able to make the most of the opportunity to listen and ask questions.
What might happen at your appointment?
When you see your doctor, they will ask you lots of questions and examine you. They may look at your eyes and ears. They will probably take your blood pressure and could listen to your heart sounds, amongst other possible tests. Based on your answers and their examination, there are numerous options for onward testing and referral, depending on what they think is appropriate for your condition.
After your appointment
Keep taking notes of your symptoms, including all the details above. These will be useful if you have any follow up appointments.
As ever, if your symptoms worsen or change significantly, you should contact your doctor or arrange another appointment.
Whatever is causing your balance difficulties, I hope that this will help you to be fully prepared and make the most of your appointment. Let me know if this has been helpful, or if you have other advice we can add to help others. You can send a message through our contact us page or pop a comment below.
Our members use our home exercise videos to improve their balance, feel stronger and more confident. You can now enjoy doing these easy to follow exercises at home too.