RESOURCES: Being an informed patient – is it a good or bad thing?

Image courtesy of Creative Commons, used with permission from Azeez Akanbi Dende-Raji

When battling a chronic illness, it can feel like you’re fighting everything around you, including your medical practitioners. They say one thing, you think another, and it can be an incredibly frustrating experience.

On the pro side, the more you know about your illness, the more productive your myriad doctor’s appointments should be. Hopefully you have doctors who appreciate that you’ve taken the time to learn about your condition. If they don’t, or act as if their word is law, find another doctors when possible.

On the con side, knowing about your condition inevitably leads to self-diagnosis. It’s almost impossible not to, but try to resist. Go to your doctor, get suggested tests (whether you suggest them or they do), and move forward from there. Be especially wary of the possibility your research will tell you that you suffer from 100 different possible diseases/conditions. We’ve all been there, right? OH NO I HAVE CANCER!!!! WebMD says so! Yeah, don’t give in to the temptation and worry that will follow.

On the pro side, being an informed patient will hopefully make you more open-minded about treatment options. We’ve all seen those commercials for medications, where at the end some person who can speak way too fast mentions a litany of side effects you may get if you take the medication.

“Possible side effects include nausea, dizziness, trouble swallowing, joint pain, locusts falling from the sky, and being eaten by a wooly mammoth.”

Who’d want to take that medication?

But it might be the best thing for you, and it seems the FDA requires these drug companies to divulge all possible side effects. In my opinion – and my opinion only – hearing about the most common side effects is a good thing. But those listed under “Extremely Rare Side Effects” on the information your pharmacy gives you are probably not applicable unless you’re predisposed to having side effects to every medication you take. In that case, please understand all possibilities before starting a medication.

Don’t be afraid to print articles you’ve read to bring with you to appointments, or to challenge your doctor about how they arrived at your diagnosis and why they ruled out other possibilities. Again, if your doctor can’t handle this, get another doctor.

How do you handle your doctor-patient relationships? Tell me in the comments!