Doctor's visits can be tricky to navigate. After waiting in the reception area for longer than you anticipate, you finally make it into a room. Your vitals are checked. You're asked a couple of preliminary questions. You wait some more. Then, finally, the doctor strolls in. You have just a few minutes of his or her time at your disposal - how do you know if you're asking your doctor the right questions? How do you know what to tell them and what information to leave out?
There are all kinds of reasons you might be inclined to keep information from your doctor. You might not think it's an important enough detail. You might be embarrassed. Or you might just not be sure that your concern is valid at all. But when in doubt, you should always tell your doctor what's on your mind. Doctors aren't always the best at listening to their patients, but it's worth the effort to make sure they hear your concerns. These 30 secrets should never be kept from your doctor, no matter what.
Your drinking habits
"How many drinks do you typically have per week?" This question is asked at almost every appointment - and lied about almost as often. But this lie can be really dangerous. It's no secret that drinking too much can have serious consequences on your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol was responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost in the U.S. each year from 2006 to 2010. You may not want to be lectured, but your doctors need to know the truth. That way, they know whether they need to look out for warning signs of any health problems that may be caused by alcohol.
Your smoking habits
Even if you only smoke occasionally - or use the classic "I only smoke when I'm drunk!" excuse - you should tell your doctor. According to a study published by the Society for Public Health Education, one in 10 smokers won't fess up to their doctors. Omitting this information prevents your physician from providing you with the best resources for you to quit. Again, you may not want a lecture, but your doctor's job is to look out for your health. And there are other reasons your doctor needs to know this information in addition to encouraging you to quit. Smoking can affect the way doctors treat certain infections such as bronchitis, and divulging this information could affect your treatment plans.
It's not in your doctor's job description to report or arrest you. It is, however, a medical provider's job to take care of you. Drugs can interfere with certain test results and symptoms. If your doctor is under the impression you haven't done any illegal drugs when you have, he or she may assume something else is causing abnormalities actually linked to drug use. Certain drugs can weaken the immune system, for instance, or cause severe sleep disturbances that typical sleep-promoting habits won't fix.
The supplements you take
When your doctors ask about medications, they're asking about over-the-counter drugs, too. This includes consistent use of pain medications, probiotics and any type of supplement. While you may think your gummy vitamin or fish oil supplement is harmless, you should report it anyway. Certain supplements can interfere with medications, so you want to warn your medical providers before they prescribe you anything. Calcium supplements, for instance, could interfere with the absorption of some antibiotics.
Are you feeling more stressed than usual lately? It might not be just a passing phase. Anxiety is a very real mental health concern - one that could require medical attention. Tell your doctor if your anxiety is ramping up so that he or she can give you the appropriate resources to help you feel better. There could be lifestyle changes you can make to mitigate your anxiety or free resources for support available in your community.
It's not always the most comfortable to talk about, but your mental health deserves just as much attention as your physical health. Side effects of depression can be dangerous, affecting both your well-being and your overall health. Tell your doctor about your depressive symptoms so that he or she can direct you to resources that may help.
Your family history
Many people withhold their family's health information simply because they don't think these details are important. But there's a reason your doctor asks for this info. From your family history, your medical providers can glean all kinds of insight into risk factors and recommend preventive measures for diseases that run in your family.
Whether you're sexually active
Younger patients may lie about whether or not they're having sex because of fear that their parents will find out. However, there's a reason doctors need to know this information. It's important to keep you up to date with testing for sexually transmitted infections, to ensure you're using the proper birth control and to monitor for other related conditions.
Your eating habits
So you indulged a little extra this month. A little white lie and some doughnuts never hurt anyone, right? But your diet habits, even the seemingly innocuous ones, could be more harmful than you think. When your doctor monitors for diet-related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, it's important that he or she knows about the dietary habits that might be feeding into them. That way, you can get the correct advice to mitigate any harm your diet may be causing.
Changes in appetite
If you've been finding you're never hungry when dinner rolls around, it might not seem worth reporting to your doctor. But a sharp decrease in appetite could signal a serious underlying condition. The same goes for if you're always starving, even when you eat consistent meals. Sharp changes in your metabolism or a loss of interest in food are subtle symptoms that could signal something more serious.
Weight loss or gain
Are you losing weight and you're not sure why? You might welcome this unexpected change, but you want to clue in your doctor as to what's going on. Same goes for weight gain - it's not the most comfortable thing to fess up, but weight gain is often a symptom of something else. Weight gain could signal a thyroid condition, for example, or kidney problems. Be honest with your doctor about any recent changes in your weight.
Your exercise habits
Does your doctor really need to know that you skipped the gym all of last week? Maybe not, but they do need to know whether you've been exercising regularly. Lack of exercise can contribute to health risks, including cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, as well as heart trouble and lack of blood sugar control. Keep your doctor up to date on your fitness regime so he or she can keep an eye out for risk factors.
If you're being made to feel uncomfortable
You might not have the best relationship with your doctor, and that's OK. But you should feel friendly enough to share when you're feeling uncomfortable during your visit. If you ever feel disrespected, unheard or mistreated by your care providers, make sure you speak up - or go see a different doctor. In order to get the best medical treatment possible, openness and communication between both parties is essential.
What you're hoping to get out of your visit
Your doctor is there to help you, and it's likely you visited your doctor for a specific reason. While your vitals are being checked and you're being asked all those questions, it can be easy to get steered off track. If you have a specific topic in mind that you want to address, make it known in your appointment. Doctors see so many patients every day; they're not always the best at listening. Tell your doctor exactly what you expect from your visit and exactly what you need. The more open the conversation, the better.
If your treatment plan isn't working
It can be disheartening when a treatment plan that seemed promising hasn't been a success. But don't be afraid to speak up if you need a change of course. Lying about feeling better won't do you any good, and there are likely other treatment options for you and your providers to explore. This also goes for reporting side effects or treatment plans that don't work for your lifestyle. Is your medication giving you uncomfortable side effects such as anxiety or insomnia? Always tell your doctor. Is your doctor prescribing you a medication that doesn't mix with alcohol, but you often drink casually with friends? You might be OK with laying off the booze, but if your lifestyle often interferes, make sure you let your providers know. There might be options that are a better fit for you.
How much sleep you're getting
The side effects of sleep deprivation can be severe. Clue your doctor in to your sleep habits so he or she can know which effects to look for. Additionally, insomnia can be a symptom of something else going on with your mental or physical health. Your doctor may be able to help you find the source of the issue so you can get better sleep.
If you've been on-track with your medications
Patients often lie about whether or not they've kept up with their prescribed medications. But this can actually be really dangerous. Say, for instance, a patient has high blood pressure. In addition to limiting foods that could worsen hypertension, taking blood pressure medication is a common treatment option. If the patient tells the doctor he or she has been taking it but really hasn't, the doctor may assume the dosage is not working. The patient could end up prescribed with a dose that's higher than what was actually needed. Your doctor isn't there to judge you - be honest when you've slipped up!
Bladder problems such as frequent urination or blood in your urine are sometimes awkward to talk about but always important to report. You could have an infection of some kind or a significant problem with your kidneys.
Constipation is more than just uncomfortable - it's often an indication of another health problem. This could be caused by something relatively benign, such as a nutrient missing from your diet or a sign you need to drink more water. It could also be something more serious such as colon cancer or a bowel obstruction.
Diarrhea can happen for a variety of reasons, ranging in severity from indigestion to a serious infection. Make sure to tell your doctor, especially if the diarrhea has been frequent or severe. You may have lost a large amount of fluids. Let your doctor monitor your vitals and help you to replenish whatever nutrients you need.
Degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia can be caught early - if you know what signs to look for. Of course, some memory changes are inevitable with age, just one of the many ways your body changes as you get older. A medical professional will be able to tell whether or not these lapses in memory are reason for serious concern. Cognitive decline isn't the only cause of memory lapses. According to the Mayo Clinic, memory loss is a surprising sign of a vitamin deficiency or may be a sign of a thyroid condition.
Blood in your stool
Finding blood in your stool is something you should always report to your doctor. While it may be harmless, reporting this symptom could save your life - it's a symptom that could indicate colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, as well as some other serious medical problems.
Decreased sex drive
People aren't always open to sharing information about their sex lives, but your sexual health is an integral part of your overall wellness. Fight off the embarrassment and let your doctor know what's going on. This can often be a physical symptom of a medical condition such as anxiety, depression, a nutrient deficiency or chronic stress.
Your medical history
From the wisdom teeth surgery you had in high school to the food allergy you developed as an adult, your medical history is essential for your doctor to know during your visit. This is especially important if you're seeing a new doctor for the first time. The background information you give will help inform any treatments the doctor chooses to prescribe.
You're seeing other doctors
Your doctor definitely won't be angry at you for seeking a second opinion - just keep your doctors in the loop. They need to know about the treatments you've tried and the tests you've undergone. Divulging this information could better inform your treatment plan and save you the extra costs of repeating medical tests such as blood tests at multiple offices.
Recent emotional trauma
Even though it's not a physical condition, severe emotional trauma and stress can cause some frightening physical symptoms. Emotional pain can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate. Let your doctor know what's going on so these factors can be taken into account.
An irregular menstrual period could signal an underlying hormonal issue, a problem with your birth control or something missing in your diet, among other potential causes. Some of these conditions could interfere with your fertility if they go untreated. If you find you're getting your period too often or not often enough, let your doctor know so that anything preventable or serious can be ruled out.
If you're experiencing erectile dysfunction, you really need to let your doctor know. It's not always a cause for concern, but erectile dysfunction could be an indication of another health issue such as chronic stress, heart problems, diabetes, metabolic syndrome or a number of other more serious conditions.
Even if the herbal remedy you use wasn't prescribed by your doctor, you should still keep him or her in the loop. Herbs and other forms of alternative medicines can have noticeable effects on your symptoms. Some may even interfere with certain doctor-prescribed medications. Protect yourself from any potentially dangerous interactions by letting your doctor know what you're taking.
You might not think that a headache or back pain is something large enough to report, but you really should. Your doctor may confirm your suspicion that it's not a big deal - or they may discover it's a symptom of a larger problem. There are a number of "small" symptoms that actually signal something serious.
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