Everyday Medical English: Speaking
about health and illness
This is an area where even people who
are generally fluent stumble quite often. You see, when youre
ill, youll have to describe and explain to your doctor (and
to other people) how youre suffering. The doctor would ask
you a number of questions, and youll have to understand those
questions and answer them. And at home and when youre among
your friends, youll often have to talk about your own or
someones illness or health.
And if youre a doctor or a medical professional,
youll have to discuss illness and health with patients and
others. Youll have to speak to patients about the history
and symptoms of their illness. Youll have to speak to them
while examining them, while prescribing medicines, about the
treatment. And even if youre not a doctor, youll find it
necessary to use these word groups quite often, because illness
is a topic that people speak to you about quite often.
All this means that you need to be fluent
in using a set of special kinds of word groups. Not a set
of technical terms, but plain everyday language that has to
do with health and illness. For a fluent native speaker of
English, this is not normally a problem, of course just
as this is not a problem for you in your own mother tongue.
But for non-native speakers of English, this is a real problem
when they have to use English to speak. This Lesson will help
you get over this difficulty.
Doctor to patient
Here are 3 separate collections of word
groups. These are word groups that doctors (as well as others)
usually use when theyre speaking to patients.
The first collection contains word groups
that doctors (as well as others) use when theyre speaking
to patients in order to find out about an illness. The second
collection contains word groups that doctors (as well as others)
use when theyre speaking to patients while examining them.
The third collection contains word groups that doctors (as
well as others) use when theyre speaking to patients about
the diagnosis that has been made and about the treatment.
Now remember this: Just because this section
has been given the heading Doctor to patient, dont think
that the word groups given are useful only to doctors. No,
thats not so. You see, these are word groups that everybody
will find useful when they have to speak to someone who is
ill: Sons and daughters when they have to speak to fathers,
mothers and others who are ill. Fathers and mothers when they
have to speak to sons and daughters who are ill. Friends when
they have to speak to friends and others who are ill. Everyone
to everyone else who is ill. So you can imagine how universally
useful these word groups are.
Case-taking: Questioning the patient
Pick up each word group and utter it
ALOUD several times. Practise uttering the word groups until
you can utter each of them with a ready flow. After that,
come back to the word groups once a week (at least for 3 or
4 weeks at a stretch) and repeat uttering them several times
Any pain in your muscles? Any pains
in your chest when you cough? Any problems with your chest?
Any problems with your waterworks? Any shortness of
Apart from your headaches, are there
any other problems? Are your parents fit and well? Are
your parents in good health? Are you a heavy drinker?
Are you aware of anything when you swallow? Are you
breastfeeding? Are you doing better today? Are you having
any difficulty with your hearing? Are you long-sighted?
Are you married? Are you short of breath? Are you
short-sighted? Are your bowels regular? Are your stools
Can I just come
back for a moment to these dizzy spells? Can you describe
the pain? Can you describe the problem? Can you describe
the symptoms? Can you see any letters at all? Can you
show me where it hurts? Can you tell me exactly how you
turned your foot? Can you tell me which tooth is causing
the problem? Can you describe the dizzy spells?
wrong, will you? Did the tablets help? Did you ever
have any fractures? Did you ever have trouble with your
liver? Did you have a comfortable night? Do bright lights
bother you? Do the eyes water when you read? Do you
always sweat? Do you belch? Do you bring up any phlegm?
Do you cough a lot? Do you cough much? Do you cough
up phlegm? Do you cough when you smell certain foods or
other smells? Do you drink a lot? Do you drink? Do
you ever bring something up? Do you ever faint? Do you
ever feel completely possessed by another person? Do you
ever feel giddy? Do you ever feel like vomiting? Do
you ever get short of breath? Do you ever get wheezy?
Do you ever have dizzy spells? Do you ever have nose
bleeds? Do you ever see double images in front of your
eyes? Do you ever see distorted images before your eyes?
Do you ever see unusual shapes before your eyes? Do
you ever suffer from headaches? Do you ever wet the bed?
Do you feel any pain inside your ears? Do you feel any
pain or discomfort down below? Do you feel any weakness
in your limbs? Do you ever take aspirins or anything like
that? Do you relate the cramps in anyway to your meals?
Do you have any cough or phlegm? Do your ankles ever
swell up? Do you feel sick when you get these headaches?
Do you find that youre losing your eyelashes? Do you
get any pain on breathing? Do you get any pains in the
chest? Do you get headaches when youre reading? Do
you get headaches? Do you get out of breath easily?
Do you get tired easily? Do you give him liquids? Do
you go out drinking much? Do you have a cold? Do you
have a history of any serious illness? Do you have a sore
throat? Do you have any allergies?
Do you have any
chest pains after exercise? Do you have any difficulty
moving your arms or legs? Do you have any discharge from
your eyes? Do you have a cough? Do you have any aches
or pains? Do you have any pain in passing water? Do
you have any trouble with passing water? Do you have any
trouble with your stomach or bowels? Do you have any pain
while passing urine? Do you have bad breath? Do you
have headaches? Do you have palpitations? Do you have
to strain to pass your motions? Do you have to strain
to pass your water? Do you know when these headaches are
coming on? Do your muscles feel stiff in the morning?
Do you often get diarrhoea? Do you often get constipation?
Do you often have a fever? Do you often lose your temper?
Do you play any sports? Do you see spots in front of
your eyes? Do you smoke? Do you socialize much? Do
you strain when you pass water? Do you suffer from double
vision? Do you sweat at night? Do you vomit? Do you
wheeze? Do your eyeballs feel painful? Do your eyes
get red easily? Do your eyes get tired easily? Do your
eyes itch? Do your eyes water? Do your legs swell?
Do your motions smell bad? Do you wear glasses? Do these
headaches come on at any particular time? Do you ever
get these headaches at night?
Does it bother
you when you are walking? Does any special food upset
your stomach? Does anyone else in your family suffer from
this problem? Does anything in particular bring on this
pain? Does anything make the pain better? Does anything
make the pain worse? Does he cough a lot? Does he ever
bring up his food? Does he ever get diarrhoea? Does
he pass wind as normal? Does the pain affect your work?
Does it bother you in any way? Does it burn when you
pass water? Does it come on any particular time? Does
the discharge have a bad smell? Does it hurt if you bend
your knee? Does it hurt much? Does it hurt when I do
this? Does it hurt when you swallow? Does the pain stay
in one place, or does it go anywhere else? Does light
bother you? Does lying down help the pain? Does she
eat at the usual times? Does she have a good appetite?
Does she have any rashes? Does she sleep at the normal
time? Does that medicine have any effect? Does that
hurt at all? Does the knee feel tender here? Does the
pain have any relation to all this? Does your husband
smoke? Does your nose run a lot? Does your water dribble?
Has he ever had
a fever? Has there been any changes in your health since
your last visit? Has this been a problem before?
Have these headaches
affected your vision at all? Have you brought your urine
sample? Have you noticed any problems with your eyesight?
Have you got a cough a persistent cough? Have you
ever been admitted to a hospital? Have you ever been operated
on? Have you ever blacked out? Have you ever coughed
up blood? Have you ever fainted? Have you ever had backaches
before? Have you ever had any problems? Have you ever
had chicken pox? Have you ever had measles? Have you
ever had your tonsils out? Have you had a head injury?
Have you had an anaesthetic before? Have you had any
cough at all? Have you had any diseases in the family
like diabetes or high blood pressure? Have you had any
falls? Have you had any miscarriages? Have you had any
pain in your chest? Have you had any serious illness in
the past? Have you had any shortness of breath? Have
you had (this) problem before? Have you had this (problem)
long? Have you lost any weight? Have you noticed any
blood in your stools? Have you noticed any blood in your
water? Have you noticed any swelling of your ankles?
Have you noticed any twitching of your muscles? Have you
noticed any weakness or tingling in your limbs? Have you
put on weight recently? Have you taken any aspirin?
Have you taken anything for it? Have you usually got lots
How about sore
throats? How about your bowels? How about your relations
with your colleagues? How about your relations with your
husband? How are you at the moment? How are you feeling
today? How can I help you? How do you feel in general?
How are you feeling at the moment? How does it feel?
How have you been keeping up to now? How is your appetite?
How long do these headaches last? How long does the
pain last? How long has it been bothering you? How long
has this been going on? How long has this bothered you?
How long has your voice been hoarse? How long have the
headaches been bothering you? How long have they been
bothering you? How long have you had this pain? How
long have you had these pains? How long have you had this
boil? How long have you had this discharge? How long
have you had this problem with your vision? How long have
you had this problem? How long have your gums been bleeding?
How many do you smoke each day? How many times do you
have to go during the night? How often do you feed him?
How often do you get this pain? How old are you? How
old is your last child? How would you describe the pain(s)?
How many episodes (of cramps) a day were you getting?
Hows your health otherwise? How about your weight?
Is it steady?
Is his toilet normal?
Is it a localized or general pain? Is the pain bad enough
to wake you up? Is it broken? Is the pain continuous
or does it come and go? Is it sore all the time? Is
it sore to the touch? Is it thick or light? Is she active,
like other children? Is there a history of diabetes in
your family? Is there any bad smell from your nose?
Is there any blood in it? Is there any discharge from
your ears? Is there any discharge or watering of the eyes?
Is there any heart disease in the family? Is there any
rash on the body? Is there anybody with blood pressure
trouble in the family? Is there anybody with kidney trouble
in the family? Is there anything else you feel the same
time? Is there anything that makes the pain better?
Is there anything that makes the pain worse? Is there
anything you need? Is this a life-long habit? Is your
digestion all right? Is your hearing affected? Is there
anybody with heart trouble in the family?
So you fell over
and grazed your knees? Try and explain what happens when
the pain comes on.
Was it painful?
Was it something you tried to lift? Was there any other
position that might bring the cramp on? Was there anything
that started it off? With the right eye, can you see anything?
What about coughs?
What about wheezing? What about shortness of breath?
What are you taking for your headache? What brings on
your cough? What brings you here? What brought this
on? What caused this? What colour is the stuff you bring
up? What colour is the vomit? What effect does food
have? What has your health been like? What kind of pain
is it? What seems to be the problem? What seems to bring
it on? What sort of exercise do you take? What sorts
of things makes it sore? Whats your appetite like?
Whats brought you along today? Whats the colour of this
discharge? Whats the matter? Whats the pain like?
Whats the stream (= urine) like? Whats the trouble?
What medication are you taking now?
Were you breathless?
Were you breathless with this discomfort? Were you aware
of palpitations? Were you sneezing and coughing?
When did his first tooth appear? When did the trouble
first start? When did the pain(s) start? When did you
first notice the lump? When did you first notice the pain?
When did you first notice this? When did you move into
town from the country? When does the pain come on? When
was the last time you had a tetanus shot? When was the
last time you visited your dentist?
Where did you catch
the infection? Where does it hurt? Where is it sore?
Where is the pain exactly? Where is the pain most severe?
Where are these headaches?
Which one is worse
the top teeth or bottom teeth? Which part of your chest
is affected? Which part of your back is affected? Which
part of your head is affected? Would it be sore if I were
to tap the tooth? Where is the pain exactly?
Youre not vomiting
now? No black-looking stool? You dont think the cramps
are likely to come on before or after meals? And the longest
episode (of cramps) lasted for? And your bowels? Have
they changed? You dont feel sick at all? Any questions,
or anything we can do for you?