Medical History

A medical record of a person’s past and present health

To diagnose a disorder or assess your risk of developing a disease, your doctor will ask questions about your current symptoms, past illnesses, medications, family medical history, or lifestyle, and then compile a medical history. If you have symptoms, your medical history will help your doctor reach a diagnosis and decide what action to take. If you are having a checkup, you may be asked about lifestyle factors that influence your health (see Health checkups).

Past medical history and medications

Information on any past disorders and operations may help your doctor decide whether a previous problem could be causing current symptoms. Symptoms may be a side effect of or an allergic reaction to a treatment, so it is important to tell your doctor if you are taking any medications or supplements, or if you are using any alternative therapies. Your doctor needs to ensure that new medication will not react with anything that you are already taking.

Family history

If you have a family history of a particular disorder, the doctor will check whether your symptoms are due to that disorder and suggest measures that help to reduce your risk of developing the condition in the future. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, you may be advised to restrict your intake of high-fat foods.


What you eat, what you do, and where you live are factors that can all influence your health. Your doctor may ask you about your diet, whether you exercise regularly, or drink, smoke, or use recreational drugs. He or she may ask you questions about your job, because your work may have an effect on your health. Past occupations may also be important because some work-related diseases take years to appear. For example, people who work or have worked in the mining industry may be at risk of developing certain occupational lung diseases.

Your personal relationships, living conditions, and financial circumstances can also influence your health, particularly your psychological wellbeing. If you have travelled abroad recently, you should tell your doctor as there is a possibility that your symptoms may be due to an unusual infectious disease.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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