Whether you are seeing your doctor for a routine appointment or have a new health issue, asking the right questions helps you get the answers you need to take the best care of yourself.

You may not get much face-to-face time with your doctor, so having these questions in mind or even written down helps you make the most of the time you have.

What Preventative Care Do I Need?

There are many types of preventative care, all aimed at preventing diseases and keeping you healthy, but they vary widely depending on many factors. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force extensively researches the most crucial preventative care for people of different ages and other demographics.

Your doctor can explain which tests, screenings, and vaccinations are recommended for your age and gender and review guidelines for what you can expect in the coming years.'

person with gloves putting adhesive bandage on man's arm after vaccination FotoDuets / Getty Images


What Is This Medication For?

When doctors prescribe medication, they may not always explain why, but you need to understand what you are taking and why you are taking it, and "for your condition" isn't always enough information.

It is essential to take all medication as prescribed, and it is easier to make follow all the rules if you know why you need it and what it does to your body.

Doctor holding pack of different tablet blisters andrei_r / Getty Images


What Is This Test For?

Doctors order lab tests and imaging tests for many reasons. You should always understand why you are having a test, what you should expect during it, if there are any risks or side effects, and when you will know the results.

It is also crucial to know what happens after the test — do you need a follow-up appointment? Do you need to arrange a ride home?

Female patient undergoing MRI Mariakray / Getty Images


What Can I Expect With This Diagnosis?

Clear communication helps you understand your diagnosis and make better, more informed decisions about your treatment. Ask what you should expect today and in the future for your health and what other laboratory and medical tests you should expect.

Depending on the condition, the next steps might be toward management or curative; either way, you and your doctor need to work together going forward.

doctor and patient talking Westend61 / Getty Images


What Does That Mean?

If your doctor uses technical terms or medical jargon you do not understand, speak up and ask them what they mean. Your healthcare team should use plain language; don't be afraid to press them to simplify or explain differently any aspect of your future care.

Clear communication is key to developing a trusting relationship with your doctor, and you have a right to keep asking questions until you feel confident that you understand what's to come.

patient talking to her doctor FatCamera / Getty Images


How Many Patients with My Condition Have You Treated?

Something you should ask when choosing the right doctor is how many patients with your condition they have treated.

This question becomes even more essential if you are dealing with a long-term autoimmune disorder or something that requires careful management, like cancer. The more experienced your doctor is, the more comfortable you can feel about your care. If they don't have much experience, they should be willing to refer you to someone who does.

Doctor consulting patient in clinic PhotoAlto/Eric Audras / Getty Images


What Symptoms Should I Look For?

If you are coping with a new diagnosis or just getting older and dealing with many changes, you should know what is normal and what might be cause for concern.

Ask your doctor about the most common issues that arise for your age group or specific issue, or bring a list of symptoms you've noticed and discuss which ones are to be expected and which are not.

doctor talking to senior couple imtmphoto / Getty Images


What Side Effects Can I Expect from This Medication?

Most medications have side effects. Some are normal; some are not.

If your doctor prescribes a new medication, in addition to asking why you are taking it and what it does, you must also know if you should expect any side effects. Knowing what is normal can help you identify what is not normal, so you know if you need to discuss finding a different medication or just wait out the symptoms.

Doctor prescribing medicine to a patient in the office AlexRaths / Getty Images


When Should I Come Back?

Before you leave your appointment, make sure you know when to come back.

When your doctor needs to see you again depends on many factors. If you are 30 or younger and generally healthy, you may only need to see your doctor once every two or three years. When you get into your 30s and 40s, you may need to go yearly as your doctor can detect many common diseases at these ages.

You may need to return multiple times a year as you get older or if you develop health issues. To know for sure, be sure to ask your doctor.'

Doctor Showing Calendar to Patient DragonImages / Getty Images


Can We Talk About End-of-Life Care?

Advance directives — the processes we and our health practitioners will follow as we near the ends of our lives — become increasingly vital as health issues get more complex, but they are not always easy to talk about.

Ask your doctor to explain your options if you have questions about your living will and what interventions you want if you are ever incapacitated. People of any age can start thinking about these factors and talking to their practitioner about them.

doctor asking senior male patient to sign a document ljubaphoto / Getty Images


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.