How to Keep a Symptom Diary

Date:

October 18, 2021

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If you and/or your care recipient are living with a chronic condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, or lung disease, you may benefit by keeping a Symptom Diary. 

Tracking symptoms of chronic conditions helps you spot trends and patterns. For many, seeing patterns is the first step in successful symptom self-management.

One way you can do this is to keep a daily journal. The easiest way to do this is to write your symptoms on your calendar each day and add some notes. It may be helpful to write notes about what you were doing before the symptom started or got worse. After a week or two, you may see a pattern. For example, when you eat dinner at a restaurant, you wake up in the night with stomach pain. After a few dinners out, you realize that when you go to restaurants, you eat too much and that causes stomach pain. Once you know this, you can try to eat less next time, or plan to bring half your meal home in a to-go-box. Or you may notice every time you walk with your grandkids in the park, you have pain and this does not happen when you walk in the grocery store. Is it because you wear different shoes to the park and the grocery store? 

You may also notice different problems can cause similar symptoms, many symptoms have the same causes, or one symptom may cause other symptoms. For example, pain may change the way you walk. You may avoid putting your weight on a sore hip or knee. This new way of walking may change your balance and cause new pain or cause you to fall. As you recognize your symptoms and understand likely causes of your symptoms, you will be able to find better ways to deal with them. You may also find ways to prevent or lessen some symptoms!

Common symptoms you may consider tracking:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Sleep Problems
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Stress
  • Memory Problems
  • Itching
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Excessive Urination

If you are a caregiver, work with your care recipient’s medical team to determine the best symptoms to track. 

Reference: Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions; published 2020 Bull Publishing Company

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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