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Diagnosis

Patient Information

The physician begins the examination by asking about the patient's symptoms. The patient may be asked to describe the symptoms and how long he or she has been experiencing them. If the patient is in pain, information is collected about the location, type, and duration of the pain. Other symptoms that may be present but may not have been noticed by the patient must be explored.

The patient's occupation may have a bearing on his or her illness. Perhaps he or she works around chemicals that may cause illness. A job of repetitive bending and lifting may result in muscle strain or back pain. A police officer or fire fighter may have periods of boredom interrupted by periods of stress or fear.

The physician must learn when the symptoms first appeared and whether they have worsened over time or remained the same in intensity. If the patient has more than one symptom, the physician must know which appeared first and in what order the others appeared. The doctor will also ask if the symptoms are similar to ones the patient has experienced in the past or if they are entirely new.

The medical history of the patient's family also may be helpful. Some diseases are hereditary and some, though not hereditary, are more likely to occur if the patient's parent or other close relative has had such a disease. For example, the person whose father has had a heart attack is more likely to have a heart attack than is a person whose family has been free of heart disease.

Personal habits, such as smoking or drinking large amounts of alcohol, also contribute to disease. Lack of exercise, lack of sleep, and an unhealthy diet are all involved in bringing about symptoms of disease.


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