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People tend to think of Doctors and Nurses as the health experts. But in reality when it comes to your health you are the expert.

No one knows your body better than you. You are the best placed to recognise those changes that could indicate the onset of potentially serious illness. For example:

  • Unexpected weight loss or gain

  • Changes in the way your bowel or bladder works

  • Persistent or chronic; pain, indigestion, discharge, cough, rash or fatigue could indicate a  health issue than needs to be treated

  • A feeling of anxiety, fear, despair that you cannot shake off, may also be an indication that you need to seek medical help.

In many instances these symptoms underpin a condition that is straightforward to diagnose and treat but not always.

Regrettably people can develop serious, life threatening illnesses. Whilst we may not want to think ‘that could happen to me’, unfortunately it could. Acting quickly when you realise that physical or mental changes are happening can sometimes save a life or reduce the severity of an illness.

If you notice changes in your body or thinking that are out of the ordinary write down what is happening to you; please record as much detail as you can, for example: where was the pain, what was its effect, how long did it last etc. It is now time to call the surgery to speak to a nurse or doctor for advice or to arrange an appointment.

Then tell it as it is. Be clear, tell the person you are seeing exactly what has happened or is happening. Please give them as much information as you can. If you have written notes, now is the time to use them. Check that the person you are speaking to really understands what you are telling them. Answer their questions as fully as you can and don’t be apologetic, embarrassed or think you are wasting the nurse or doctor’s time.

Remember at this stage they may genuinely not know if you are ill or exactly what is going on. They may need to do tests, investigate further, look for more information or refer you to someone else. Some illnesses are really difficult to diagnose.

Even with an accurate diagnosis, treatment can be far from straightforward. For example, people frequently respond differently to medication; what works for one individual may cause an adverse reaction in another. It may not be a popular statement but treatment can often be ‘hit and miss’. This is not a reflection of a clinician’s competence but the reality that people’s immune systems differ, diseases affect individual’s differently and people can react unexpectedly to treatments; both positively and negatively. Frequently, given time and appropriate help our bodies can heal themselves, our circumstances change or the pain just goes away; at least temporarily. In other cases persistence and patience on the part of both Clinician and Patient eventually results in a successful or manageable outcome.

Sadly, in some cases the news is not good and robust palliative care is all that can be honestly offered.

Early detection gives the best chance of a positive outcome. So as your body’s expert:

  • Take notice of any changes in your body and take them seriously

  • Keep a note of these changes in as much detail as you can

  • Never hesitate to ask for advice from the Practice

  • Be clear about what is happening to you – don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to tell it as it is

  • Be persistent until you are given a reasonable explanation, reassurance or diagnoses from a professional clinician

  • If you are in doubt or despair ask for a second opinion

  • Don’t give up looking for an effective treatment if the initial treatment doesn’t work but be prepared for some trial and error

  • If your illness or treatment is getting you down ask for support and the opportunity to talk to a counsellor – it really does help

  • Don’t take other people’s medicines and speak to your doctor or nurse before trying other treatments.

Remember you really are the expert but our Practitioners can be your best friend when your health begins to go wrong.

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