Tracking symptoms and using a symptom diary
Using a symptom diary or symptom tracker can be useful in several ways.
If you live with multiple sclerosis (MS), over time a symptom diary can be a great tool to help with self-management. You may well spot patterns or spikes in symptoms (helping identify possible relapses if you have relapsing MS). For example, you may notice a pattern or theme emerge during certain times of the day, on specific days of the week (or month) or after completing the activity.
Using a diary may help you monitor your overall symptoms and wellbeing and help you manage fatigue and support pain management.
If you are going through a diagnosis journey or suspect MS, a symptom diary can be a helpful tool in documenting your symptoms and issues. It can help health professionals to see you as a whole, rather than looking at symptoms in isolation.
Having an accurate personal record of symptoms and issues will also be helpful for any review that you have with your health professionals. Using a diary is a good way of being sure of if and when symptoms have been impacting your daily life.
A diary can help monitor and gather valuable health history information to help you communicate with health professionals when you see them.
What kind of diary should I use?
You can make this diary as individual as you are and make it work for you. It’s a good idea to make sure that your diary is something that is accessible, you can use regularly, and that you can happily embed into your routines.
You can keep a paper-based diary, notes on your calendar, or a health journal or you can use technology to help.
The vast majority of us are likely to have a smartphone or tablet that we use daily. You can keep notes and monitor other aspects of your health with your devices. Many apps can act as aids to symptom tracking and self-management available via the various app stores. If you choose to use an app, make sure that you read the terms and conditions and be aware of how your data is used.
What should I capture in my diary?
You may wish to involve your MS team and ask them if there is anything they would want you to capture and record. We have made some suggestions.
- Capture the basics of date, time, and place
- Record each symptom that affects you, whether it’s a new symptom or one previously experienced. Is it worse than before?
- Record whether the symptom fluctuates or whether it is constant
- Do other environmental factors seem to have an impact on the symptom? for example, stress, heat, diet, the time of day, mood etc
- Score how the symptom affects you. For example, ‘one’ meaning not much impact on daily living and ‘five’ meaning an impact on your quality of life
As well as capturing symptoms, you may wish to track and monitor other aspects of your health and wellbeing such as your energy levels, your sense of vitality, your mood and mental health.
Capturing this information will all help to build a picture of what you are experiencing and will also help medical professionals understand what may be going on.
MS-UK have a simple but effective symptom diary that you are welcome to download and use.