By Emsie Martin
By hiding things from your doctor you are putting your health at risk, says Dr Roger Henderson, general practitioner, national medical columnist and medical director of LIVA Healthcare in the United Kingdom.
There are many reasons why people visit the doctor – many very serious, others quite insignificant. The problem is, often people are very reluctant to share certain important details with their doctor.
To keep silent about important facts makes a diagnosis very difficult and could put you in in danger. Everything can affect your health and you should discuss anything with your doctor which might worry you. According to Dr Henderson, the most common things patients refrain from telling him as doctor are the following:
You have stopped taking your medication
Some estimates show that 70% of patients don’t stick to a treatment plan, either because they forget or because they think they are “better” due to the symptoms having disappeared. This means that unnecessary extra medication will be prescribed because the doctor thinks your condition is not reacting to the treatment. If, however, you cannot take the medication as prescribed, you should be honest about it so that it doesn’t lead to problems later on.
How much you really smoke or drink
Your doctor must have an accurate idea about how your lifestyle could influence your health. If you drink a bottle of wine every evening, don’t say you drink only one glass. Your doctor must know what your lifestyle entails so that he can make an accurate diagnosis, have the correct tests done and protect your health.
You are extremely tense, depressed or being abused
If you are in a relationship where you are being abused in any way, it is of the utmost importance to pluck up the courage to talk about it so that your doctor can help. With regard to depression: the earlier the symptoms of this condition are treated, the better. Your doctor can refer you for counselling or recommend that you use medication for your symptoms. As soon as the ice has been broken, you will find it easier to talk about these kinds of problems. Depression is a serious matter.
You use herbal supplements or over-the-counter medication
Most people think that because herbal supplements are natural, they cannot interfere with prescription medication, but unfortunately this is not the case. So-called “weight loss supplements” can affect your heart, large amounts of vitamins and minerals can be dangerous and Chinese supplements have the potential to harm your health. If you are unsure, you should first ask your doctor – “natural” does not mean that it’s always safe.
You have financial problems
Big financial stress can cause serious health problems, especially within the current financial climate. Your doctor need not know what your bank balance is, but he must have an idea about how deep the problem lies so that he can give you the right advice and can understand if there is an associated psychological problem.
You don’t sleep
Sleeping problems can have many causes. These include stress, depression or anxiety, menopausal changes and obstructive sleep apnoea (a potentially dangerous condition). Your doctor may, among others, suggest that you don’t exercise just before going to bed, keep to a strict sleeping pattern, cut our alcohol or caffeine in the evenings and follow a healthy diet.
You have stomach or bladder problems
We can feel extremely embarrassed when it comes to bowel functions or if we struggle to urinate, but in the case of intestinal as well as bladder cancer you could actually die of shame. As kids we are taught not to discuss toilet habits because it is considered bad manners. Unfortunately, this can cause adults to be unwilling to talk about this sensitive topic. If you are unsure or experiencing a problem, you should let your doctor take a look.
You are abnormally tired
Although old age is the biggest cause of tiredness, there are a great many other medical causes, including diabetes, depression, anaemia, thyroid problems and heart diseases, to mention but a few. If you don’t tell your doctor, he cannot establish whether it is merely a result of old age or whether there might be a more serious problem.
You have sexual problems
If there is one thing people find more difficult to talk about, it is their sex life. You might not feel it necessary to discuss it with your doctor, but erectile dysfunction can be an early indicator of conditions such as diabetes or heart diseases, and painful sex or bleeding in women after intercourse can be an indication of hormonal or uterus problems, all conditions that need attention. Discuss the situation with your doctor, he might be able to clear up the uncomfortable situation between husband and wife by explaining the medical cause.
Family history with any medical problem
It is always a good idea to mention a family history of, for example, heart diseases to your doctor, as well as cancer, strokes, diabetes etc. This can allow you to be tested and early preventative treatment can commence, if necessary.
“Remember – the key to any relationship, including the one with your doctor, is honesty. To avoid an uncomfortable topic sometimes feels like the easy way out, but if you keep quiet about something that could possibly harm your health, it could create serious problems. Be honest and tell the whole truth so that you can get the best possible advice” – Dr Roger Henderson.
Solidarity’s Guild for Health Practitioners is an occupational community who stand and work together. Guild members have the opportunity to collectively get involved in the maintenance, extension and sustainability of their relevant careers.