While you know you should tell your doctor everything that could be affecting your health, details that are too embarrassing often don’t get mentioned. In fact, surveys show that 28 percent of patients acknowledge sometimes lying to their doctor or omitting information. And all of this skirting around the truth isn’t going unnoticed by doctors. When asked, 77 percent of physicians said that at least one-fourth of their patients omitted facts or lied while 28 percent estimate that it’s at least half of their patients.
There’s no doubt it can sometimes be uncomfortable to talk to your doctor about private or embarrassing things going on with your body, but having an open and honest discussion can be the key to taking care of smaller issues before they turn into larger, more serious ones. For example, not telling your doctor about your problems urinating could mask something going on with your prostate. To help open the dialogue between you and your doctor, try these five tips:
- Be honest about your embarrassment. Saying: “This is uncomfortable for me to talk about, but…” allows for your doctor to know that you’re uneasy and to proceed with thoughtfulness.
- Use common terms. Often times, patients become embarrassed because they don’t know the proper medical terminology, so they stay quiet. If it makes it easier to be honest about something, use whatever words you want. Telling your doctor that everyone resembles dinosaurs might sound silly, but it can clue your doctor in that you might have macular degeneration, which can distort vision.
- Talk to the right people. You may feel more comfortable with someone in the office you have a better relationship with, like a nurse, physician’s assistant or hygienist. Talking to someone whom you’re comfortable with first can help get the conversation going. Mention you’d love if the doctor could get a heads up that you’re having these issues before seeing you.
- Do what works for you. If writing a note or journaling about your medical issues allows you to better communicate how you’re feeling, share these with the doctor. There is no one right way to explain your health to someone.
- Remember that the doctor is there to help. Doctors can be intimidating, but remember that they want you to be honest with them so that they can do everything they can to keep you healthy. No matter what you say, it won’t be the first time they’ve heard it.
For more information on communicating with your doctor, check out these blogs from both this site as well as A Healthier Michigan:
- 5 Tips for Choosing a New Doctor
- 5 Important Questions to Ask Your Dentist
- 3 Must-Ask Questions for Every Doctors Visit
Photo credit: Ted Eytan