Taking Control: Why Symptom Tracking Matters
Maya Devincenzi Dil
Maya Devincenzi Dil
Most people who are affected by a serious illness don’t tend to keep tabs on their symptoms. It might be due to fear of burdening others, hoping to avoid another hospital visit, or thinking “That’s just part of the illness,” and assuming nothing can be done to alleviate them.
People often believe they ‘just live with’ the discomfort. But here’s the truth – it doesn’t have to be that way.
While some symptoms are an inherent part of an illness, that doesn’t mean they must be accepted as a regular part of life. Many symptoms can be managed well with the help of a healthcare team. But to get help, the healthcare team needs to know what’s going on and which symptoms are present. That’s where symptom tracking comes in handy.
At its core, symptom tracking is about identifying and acknowledging a problem that requires attention. Put simply, symptom tracking is about recognizing symptoms as they arise, judging their severity, and observing how they change over time. This may sound daunting but don’t worry. There are resources and tools available that simplify the process and take the guesswork out of it all. We’ll talk more about those later, but first, let’s look at why symptom tracking is so important and how it can help.
Why is symptom tracking important?
Think of it like this: when you have a cold, you know how to recognise the early signs. You know how to keep tabs on your symptoms, what to do if they get worse, and how to ease them. You know how to soothe your throat, ease your cough, reduce your fever, or stop your runny nose.
It’s rare that we hang on and wait for the symptoms to disappear on their own – instead, we take small but crucial steps. Drinking fluids, taking vitamins, having hot soup, using cold & flu medicine, and resting… you name it, we do it.
But what if instead of a cold you had a serious illness, like chronic kidney disease? You might dismiss your fatigue and shortness of breath as expected side effects, leading to discomfort and missed opportunities for quality time with friends and family.
By tracking your symptoms and consulting with your healthcare team, you could discover that your fatigue is due to anemia. This is common in later stages of kidney disease, but can be managed with proper treatment. Knowing how to identify changes in your condition empowers you and your loved ones to be proactive about your health, avoiding unnecessary discomfort or hospital stays.
What are the benefits of symptom tracking?
Identifying changes in your own or your loved one’s condition is beneficial. It helps everyone feel more knowledgeable, empowered, and supported. Ignoring symptoms, on the other hand, can lead to unnecessary discomfort, pain, and even hospital visits.
Regular Symptom Monitoring can make all the difference.
Remember, tracking and managing symptoms is a team effort – involving you, your family, and your healthcare team. When you are armed with the knowledge and confidence to track symptoms, it’s easier to access the right care and support when it’s needed.
Tracking your symptoms is also a big help for your medical team. Having a symptom overview allows them to gain a comprehensive picture of the condition. This in turn helps them customize and change the treatment plan, anticipate potential issues, adjust medications, enhance comfort measures, and effectively measure the progress and response to treatments. This leads to more comfort and greater well-being. Who wouldn’t want that?