Ten things you should never keep from your doctor

March 9, 2009

Cat Jensen
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Visiting the doctor can be a frightening and intimidating experience, particularly if it involves admitting you have a problem. Despite this, there are some things your doctor just needs to know. Here are 10 things about which you should always be open with your doctor.

Don’t hide from your doctor the fact that you:

1. Smoke, drink excessively or do illegal drugs

Few are proud of any of the above, but your doctor needs to know. He can’t accurately diagnose and treat your health problems if you hide any substance abuse. Your doctor is required to stick to confidentiality agreements, so it will be between you and them.

2. Have peeing or pooping issues
You may have gotten a swat on the hand for saying “dirty” words like poop around your mother when you were a child, but it is important to remember that to a doctor bodily functions are nothing new or shameful.

Dr. Viki Rackner a general surgeon from Mercer Island, Washington speaks in an interview with CNN of a patient who died of cancer because she was too embarrassed to tell her she had blood in her stool. “We don’t like to talk about these things,” Rackner said. “But if she’d brought up the blood in her stool to her doctor, [the cancer] would probably have been at an early stage and she could have been cured.”

3. Take herbs

Even if you feel like your doctor looks down on herbs and other forms of alternative medicine, you’ll want to tell them about the supplements you’re taking. Certain herbs don’t mix well with certain medications, so he or she needs to know.

4. See a chiropractor or an alternative healer

If you’re seeing a chiropractor, just tell them. If you’re having neck pain, it would help your doctor to know that just a few days ago your chiropractor adjusted your neck.

5. Are having financial troubles

Money can be very difficult to talk about. It is better to discuss, however, than digging a hole you won’t be able to get out of later. If your doctor recommends a procedure you can’t afford, just say so. You might be able to work something out with the doctor. Some are willing to set up payment plans.

6. Want cheap medicine

If you want a cheaper medicine than the one your doctor prescribes, don’t be embarrassed to say so. Your doctor may even have a list of drug store medication and you can compare something on the list to what they have prescribed.

7. Feel depressed, anxious or stressed out

Along with money, many people have trouble talking about their feelings. Depression is a serious condition and something you want taken care of instead of allowing it to get worse.

8. Defied the doctor’s orders

When your doctor asks if you are doing your monthly breast or testicular exams, don’t lie and nod your head. Admit that you aren’t. Your doctor might be able to come up with a way for you to remember. Same goes for medicines: If you’re bad about taking the drugs your doctor prescribed, you need to tell them. This isn’t school; you won’t be punished.

9. Don’t exercise and eat poorly

If soda and cookies have been your source of caloric intake for a while and you haven’t exercised since last century, just admit it. Your doctor is there to help you come up with ways to develop better habits.

10. Have a small problem you think is unimportant

Even if you have a pain you consider small or a symptom that comes and goes, your doctor still needs to know. Even the smallest things can be the foreshadowing of a more serious problem. It’s better to find out something is wrong and be able to correct it than find out too late to do anything.

Still Feeling Embarrassed?

If you still feel you can’t tell your doctor, you can always tell the nurse if you feel like you connect with him or her better. If your doctor has e-mail and you feel you can express what’s going on more coherently in writing, then you can try that as well.

In the long run, being honest with your doctor is the safest way to go.