If there’s a place to be honest about your habits and your health, it’s your doctor’s office. You might feel embarrassed but there’s no need to be. Your doctor is there to help you and the more information your doctor has, the more he is able to do for you.
Besides, there are strict privacy laws between patients and their doctors so the information you share is not going to be shared. Here are 10 secrets you shouldn’t hide from your doctor.
You binge drink
No one is proud to admit they have a problem of excessive drinking, and most people believe doctors don’t need to know about it – but that is where they are absolutely wrong. Besides causing a host of health problems, binge drinking can throw test results off and send your doctor down the wrong path during a diagnosis.
Furthermore, you would benefit from a doctor’s help to reduce your alcohol intake. According to Dr Stanley Chia, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, heavy drinking can lead to many serious health conditions in the long term, such as high blood pressure, gastric problems, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, pancreatitis, alcohol dependence and various psychological conditions.
Let your doctor know if you have a drinking problem. It will help them assess your health more accurately, and they may also help you kick the habit.
You haven’t quit smoking
You may feel compelled to keep this habit a secret in order to avoid a lecture from your doctor. But your doctor needs to know if you smoke as it can interfere with certain drugs, and might help to explain symptoms you may have.
Smoking is also the leading cause of numerous critical diseases. Dr Leslie Tay, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, warns that if you smoke regularly, you are almost guaranteeing yourself heart disease or cancer in your lifetime. It is important to get help to stop this habit, and your doctor can help you quit effectively, be it through therapy or medication.
You can’t sleep
Maybe you think a sleeping problem is something too minor, and not a health issue you need to alert your doctor about. However, insomnia may be a sign of many underlying health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or even sleep apnoea. Furthermore, besides affecting our quality of life, poor sleep has negative effects on our heart health, says Dr Tay Hin Ngan, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, tell your doctor. He can evaluate the problem and offer advice or refer you to the right specialist.
You stopped taking your meds
Consult your doctor before stopping or reducing the regularity of any medication, even if your condition seems to have normalised. Also, be upfront with your doctor if you are not taking your medicine regularly. It is important to be honest so that your doctor can get a clear picture of the problem, and that a correct diagnosis and management plan can be made.
You’re having bladder or bowel issues
As children, we were taught not to talk about poop. And when we grow up, we become uncomfortable to talk about body functions. But you’re putting your health at risk if you don’t talk about certain symptoms, such as presence of blood in your stool. Blood in the stool could be a sign of a number of conditions, one of which colorectal cancer, a cancer that is curable if caught early.
Wetting your pants when you sneeze may not be so embarrassing to talk about once you realise how common it is. According to a local survey, about a third of Singaporean women above the age of 50 suffer from urinary stress incontinence – a condition where you leak urine involuntarily, usually when you cough, sneeze, laugh or jump. Urinary stress incontinence is highly treatable, and a doctor can advise you on treatment options or exercise techniques to stop urine leakage.
You’re feeling blue
There should be no stigma about mental illness when talking to your doctor. If you are feeling depressed, your doctor can help. Fatigue, mood swings, and low energy levels could stem from illnesses or medical conditions such as depression, stress, thyroid imbalance, anaemia or poor lifestyle habits. When doctors are informed, they can diagnose your condition and offer you treatment advice, or refer you to the right specialist or counsellor.
You have unhealthy eating and exercise habits
We tend to downplay unhealthy eating and lack of exercise, but poor lifestyle habits have a huge impact on our health, especially as we age. According to Dr Leslie Tay, being sedentary may be twice as deadly as being obese, while a small amount of regular exercise can significantly reduce your risk of premature death.
When you lie about your lifestyle while your weight and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels skyrocket, your tall tale could lead to less effective treatment. If potato chips or fried chicken is your weakness, just admit it. Your doctor may be able to come up with a plan to develop better habits.
You’re taking over-the-counter meds, supplements or vitamins
You may be embarrassed to tell your doctor you’ve been taking over-the-counter supplements or medicine given by another doctor. Regardless, be sure to pass all information on the herbs, supplements or other alternative treatments you’re taking. Your doctor needs to know everything you are taking, so that there are no dangerous interactions between the medication they are prescribing and the additional supplements you are taking.
You’re going on a crash diet
Any extreme diet has its risks even if you’re in a good shape and follow it for just a few days. You can become dehydrated and throw off your electrolyte balance, which can harm the heart and kidneys. Low-calorie diets may also strip you of micronutrients, like magnesium and vitamin D, that are essential to health. Instead, talk to your doctor about a better weight-loss plan. Or if you’re going to do go on a diet anyway, at least check in to ensure you’re going about it as safely as possible.
You experience pain during sex
Painful sex shouldn’t be the norm. If you have pain during or after sex, let your doctor know. It can be a warning sign of underlying conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometriosis, fibroids or infections. A doctor will be able to assess what’s causing the problem and whether you need any treatment.
Article reviewed by Dr Othello Dave, deputy medical director at Parkway Hospitals
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