Doctors explain 8 key health questions to ask when you next visit your GP

We can often become worried by symptoms we may be experiencing, but still might not go to the doctor due to feeling embarassed. Doctors insist that you should always see your GP if you are worried

Self-diagnosing online is not helpful, go to your doctor
Self-diagnosing online is not helpful, go to your doctor

People feeling anxious or nervous should not stop them from going to their GP, say doctors.

Research can make us worry about our health as well, and there are often new scientific developments and discoveries that can question our own health despite us feeling completely normal.

An uncomfortable twitching around the eyes can be a way to identify a vitamin B deficiency, while sleep patterns can indicate high cholesterol.

Symptoms like these and many more can worry people, but people may still feel they do not want to go to the doctor.

Going to the doctor can be daunting for some people. Some avoid it out of fear or embarrassment, while others may feel as though their particularly medical ailment may be a burden, some may just ignore the signs of a problem.

However, a quick trip online can scare us all due to self-diagnosis, diagnosis that should be done by medically trained professionals

So what are the right questions to ask about your health?

The top questions to ask your doctor ahead of visiting your GP surgery

Prostate cancer is the second-most common form of disease among men after skin cancer


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Doctors are busier than ever and as a patient you can sometimes feel under pressure not to waste their time. That means we often leave the surgery or end an online consultation and only later realise we didn’t ask a crucial question.

Additionally, we don’t always remember the things we are told. One research study shows that when patients were asked what they were told six days after their appointment, on average they could only manage to recall three facts.

“Excellent consultation skills are one of the most important tools of any doctor’s working life,” said Dr Deborah Lee from the Dr Fox Online Pharmacy (

“To meet a patient’s needs involves understanding their ideas, concerns and expectations. That means giving them the time to ask questions, checking their understanding and ensuring they leave with key take-home messages.”

“As doctors we’d always rather you asked anything you are worried about and as a patient it’s best to go into your consultation armed with the right questions to ask.”

So what are the right questions?

What can I do to help my condition?

People who are engaged in their own heath concerns tend to fare better


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Research shows that when a patient is fully engaged with their own healthcare, the outcome is much better. “You need to be empowered to make informed decisions to allow you to take appropriate action and make better lifestyle choices,” explained Dr Lee.

“It’s important you leave the consultation understanding what you can do to help yourself. Your doctor cannot manage your life for you. This is down to the decisions you make for yourself every day. So knowing the best way to manage a condition increases your chances of staying healthy.”

If you’re worried you’ll forget key information, take a friend or family member along. Never be embarrassed to write notes as you talk to your GP.

What are these tests for?

As a patient, you must give your consent before any tests or procedures can be carried out for you. Giving consent means you understand what is being proposed, are able to ask any questions you have, and you have agreed to go ahead.

“You should understand exactly what you are being tested for, especially if there would be a potentially severe outcome if the test was positive,” says Dr Lee.

Better communication is also much safer for you, as certain tests require you to do certain things beforehand.

“Your GP should also explain the instructions for tests, for example, if you should fast beforehand or if you need to arrange transport and support at home after a procedure.”

Are there any alternatives to this treatment?

A doctor cannot force you to have medication you do not want


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“Choice is important because all treatments have an outcome and we never know that outcome until after the event,” explains Dr Lee.

“People differ very markedly in their views about health and their wishes for treatment, and these must always be respected.

“A doctor can’t force a patient down a specific pathway if they prefer an alternative.

“Remember, you’re also entitled to refuse treatment altogether. So make sure you understand what’s available to you.”

Should I get a second opinion?

Don’t be worried about getting a second opinion, it is important to make yourself feel at ease and trust the medical process.

“This is a perfectly reasonable request, especially if you have a serious diagnosis and are trying to decide on treatment,” insists Dr Lee. “However, sometimes wanting a second opinion may reflect a lack of understanding about your condition, confusion about the proposed treatment, or a lack of confidence in your doctor.

“If you’re having doubts you can ask your doctor to refer you for a second opinion or arrange to see another doctor at your practice.”

What should I do if it starts to get worse?

A doctor should indicate when you need to call for further help


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It is important to understand your condition and know when to call for help. “Good examples are asthma or diabetes,” says Dr Lee, “These can quickly spiral out of control and even be fatal.

“By understanding how to monitor your disease, the trigger factors and warning signs and when to call for help, tragedies can be avoided. You can also correctly adapt the use of your medication.”

How do I get my results?

“Patients experience extreme anxiety waiting for results, so you should be told exactly when to expect your test results and how they will be given,” insists Dr Lee.

“Some patients assume ‘no news is good news’ but occasionally results go astray, so if you’re aware you haven’t received them as promised you’ll know when to chase them up.”

Are there any side effects to medication?

Side effects from medication can ocur, but your doctor can run this through with you


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Your doctor should tell you about the common side effects, but you should also read the information leaflet inside your medication. “This is important because some side effects may be mild and get better quite quickly as your body adjusts to the drug, while some may not.

“You should know the symptoms and signs of an acute allergic reaction, for example, which is a medical emergency,” says Dr Lee. “Any unusual or severe side effects should be reported to your doctor immediately.”

Where can I find out more about my condition?

You can use the internet to try and give yourself answers, but it is still better to talk to your doctor. Your doctor may even recommend useful websites for you to look at.

“It’s a far better idea to ask your doctor to recommend good quality websites where you can trust what you read,” advises Dr Lee. “One good source is NHS Choices ( which is evidence-based and non-promotional.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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