Talking to Your Doctor

Which relapsing MS treatment is right for you?

When considering a relapsing MS therapy, you may want to ask your health care provider the following questions:

The exact correlation between MRI findings and the current or future clinical status of patients, including disability progression, is unknown.

Tips for better communication with your health care provider

Have you ever left an appointment and realized you forgot to discuss questions or thoughts you might have had? Are you overwhelmed by some of the language your health care provider uses to discuss your test results or your MS?

The average appointment with a neurologist lasts between 30 and 45 minutes, and the time goes by quickly. If you enter the doctor's office with a specific agenda in mind, then you'll have a better chance of leaving the office with a sense of accomplishment." —Jennifer Smrtka, MS, APRN-BC, ANP; Jennifer Smrtka is sponsored by EMD Serono, Inc. and Pfizer Inc.

Want more tips to talk to your doctor? Hear tips from an MS neurologist.

I am newly diagnosed, and I don't seem to know how to talk to my doctor. Any tips? What do you typically ask your newly diagnosed patients?

The newly diagnosed patient has a lot of different questions. And they have difficulty, sometimes, explaining to their doctors what's going on. There are a few things I go through with my newly diagnosed patients. And certainly, the history of their neurologic problems is very important. I want to know, specifically, when they had their first attack, what that was like for them, and how long did it last.

So again, you want to be as precise with the information you can provide to your physician, so they can make a reasonable diagnostic consideration of your MS. If you can't remember all the details, you might want to try talking to people who were around you at that time, and maybe write down that information. Because you can bring that to your appointment, and that will also help the doctor.

I think you should be very clear about what your expectations are when you're talking with your physician. Sometimes you won't know, because this is all new to you. But I think it's important to ask questions about what to expect; although, again, for any one person, it may be difficult to know for certain.

Also, you want to know what they think the best treatment options for you would be, and whether or not you need to start treatment now. I think the questions, with regard to specificity, is very helpful for the doctors to understand what they need to do for you, and how you'll be treated moving forward.

Here are some ideas to help make conversations about MS with your health care provider more productive:

  • Bring a friend with you. It can help to have another person listen to your health care provider and take notes to help you remember the details later.
  • Write your questions down ahead of time. Prioritize the top three questions you'd like to ask during your appointment, and remember to take notes at the appointment.
  • Ask your health care provider to explain anything you don't understand. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  • Try not to downplay your symptoms or feelings. Remember, the people on your health care team are experts in caring for people living with relapsing MS—try to tell them exactly how you are doing.
  • Ask about follow-up. Is it best to get in touch by phone or email, or should you plan another visit?
  • Keep all your medical records in one place. Store your appointment notes, invoices, test results, treatment journal, etc in a binder or box, so you can refer to them quickly and easily.

You may also find it useful to assess how you're doing a few days before your next appointment. Use the Treatment Journal to create a report that you can take with you to your next appointment.

Call MS LifeLines® toll-free for more support at 1-877-447-3243.

*New or enlarging lesions detected with PD/T2-weighted MRI.

Ron B.
MS LifeLines Ambassador, living with relapsing MS

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