Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. However, when you call to set up your appointment, you may be urged to seek immediate medical care if you are experiencing severe, unexplained chest pain or difficulty breathing.
If you are young and have typical symptoms of a viral illness, your doctor may be able to manage your symptoms by phone.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance.
- Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long. Be prepared to describe your chest pain to your doctor and to pinpoint where it starts and how far it spreads. Be sure to mention that the pain occurs when you are breathing in and out.
- Write down key personal information, including recent travel abroad and major life changes, both positive and negative. Your doctor may also be interested in your work history, including possible environmental exposure to asbestos over the past 20 years or longer.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other conditions you're being treated for and the names of any medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking. Also note whether any family members — especially children — or close friends have recently been ill.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. With pleurisy, the pain you're experiencing may be too intense to safely drive. In addition, it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out.
For pleurisy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What do you think is the underlying cause of my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
- Does it make any difference that my sputum is yellowish or greenish?
- What kinds of diagnostic tests or procedures do I need?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- How soon after I begin treatment can I expect to feel better?
- Are there self-care steps I can take to improve my discomfort?
- What should I do if the pain doesn't get any better?
- Do you recommend that I stay home from work or school? For how long?
- Will it help if I stop smoking?
- If the people I live with smoke, will it aggravate my condition?
- Am I at risk of long-term complications from this condition?
- Is the underlying cause of my symptoms contagious? How can I reduce the risk of passing my illness to others?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover seeing a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:
- How would you describe your symptoms?
- When did you begin experiencing these symptoms?
- Where is your chest pain located? Does it spread to your arms, shoulders or jaw?
- Is your chest pain constant, or does it come and go?
- What, if anything, makes your chest pain better? What makes it worse?
- Have you ever had anything like this before?
- Have you been on bed rest for more than several days?
- Do your symptoms include other types of pain, such as a sore throat or joint pain?
- Have you been experiencing difficulty breathing?
- Have you been experiencing fever or night sweats?
- Do you have any arthritis?
- To a woman, have you recently had a baby?
- Have you lost weight without trying?
- How does your current energy level compare to what's normal for you?
- Have you been diagnosed with or treated for any other health conditions?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- Have you recently had any medical procedures?
- Have you recently traveled to another country? Did anyone who traveled with you get sick?
- Have you been on a recent long airplane trip?
- Have you been involved in any work, projects or hobbies over the years that might have exposed you to asbestos?
- Do or did you smoke? For how long?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) — which also helps control inflammation — and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may make you more comfortable.
Tylenol with codeine, available by prescription only, helps control both a cough and pain. Get plenty of rest. You may find that lying on the painful side of your body eases your discomfort.
- What are pleurisy and other disorders of the pleura? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pleurisy/pleurisy_whatare.html. Accessed Dec. 30, 2010.
- Poznak MV. Pleurisy. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..00025-1--sc30630&isbn=978-0-323-05610-6&sid=1096727073&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..00025-1--sc30630&uniqId=230257626-6#4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..00025-1--sc30630. Accessed Dec. 30, 2010.
- Pleuropulmonary disorders. In: Mason RJ, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4710-0..00030-4--s0050&isbn=978-1-4160-4710-0&sid=1096727073&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4710-0..00030-4--s0055&uniqId=230257626-6#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4710-0..00030-4--s0055. Accessed Dec. 30, 2010.
- Rosenow EC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 3, 2011.