It’s important to have an open relationship with your primary care physician because the more he or she knows about your health and lifestyle, the better able he or she is to diagnose illnesses as they come up.
You wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic and not tell him that the brake is sticking, and a human organism is thousands of times more complicated than a car. But patients are shy. They’re embarrassed. They don’t want you to think badly about them, so they often leave out important information that’s critical for the physician to know.
Here are eight things you shouldn’t keep from your doctor:
1. All of the medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal products: It’s amazing to me how many times I review a med list and, even when I prompt “Is that all?” I find out much later that the patient left out the birth control pill or an herb for prostate health. Everything is important.
2. Smoking, drinking, and drugs: All doctors know to triple the amount a person says they drink. If you smoke “on weekends,” admit it. The same with recreational drugs.
3. Can’t afford your prescriptions: Studies show that up to 40 percent of patients cut their pills or don’t fill the prescription because of cost. Tell your doctor up front. There are many generic equivalents as well as prescription assistance programs that can help. We all know that prescriptions are wildly expensive and we want to make sure you can afford it.
4. How much you really exercise: We all want to exercise more, but saying you exercise “regularly” when it’s really a walk to the car makes it hard to come up with a treatment plan that will really work.
5. Have sexual dysfunction: For men, sexual dysfunction can signify diabetes, thyroid disorders or atherosclerosis. Tell your doctor if you can’t “get it up” or if there’s been a change in your sexuality. For women it’s even more complicated, so open up that discussion.
6. Have a change in your bowel habits: Blood in the stool, a change in your regular habits, pain with movements are all things that should be discussed. Doctors are very comfortable talking about body functions. We do it at the dinner table, so don’t be shy.
7. Extreme stress: Worried about money? Having marital problems? Have a teenager? Your mental health is as important as your body functions. Let your doctor know if you’re experiencing stress because it can have major impact on your health.
8. See another doctor: One patient recently told me he had “cheated on me” and seen another doctor closer to his home. I had to laugh at this because he said it like it was a betrayal, but I was glad he felt open enough to tell me. Coordinating care is important and knowing that tests or prescriptions have been given by another physician is critical information for us to have.
The private nature of medicine shows why it’s so important to have a trusted relationship with a physician. It’s also okay to ask that some information be left out of your chart. The medical record is not private. Every time you apply for insurance (life insurance, health insurance, disability, long term care, etc.), you sign a form that allows access to your medical records, so protecting them important.
An open understanding with your physician is important. If you have this relationship, go ahead a be open — it’s a partnership.
*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*