Never LIE to your Doctor! But why?! What’s the most that could happen? Well, for starters, you could die.
It’s no news that people blatantly lie about several things in their physician’s clinic. Most of us have done it; downplayed a symptom to wriggle our way out of a strict therapeutic regimen, or over-dramatized a gas problem to get several days off work. Some of us have lied about habits we know aren’t good for us, but we do anyway: the 4 bottles of beer you downed the previous night suddenly become just one glass, the packet of cigarettes you smoke daily, becomes a packet in a week and so on and so forth.
While some of these lies may not have a radical effect, some can take a toll on your health and treatment.
It’s important to understand that a Doctor’s investigation begins with the patient’s interrogation, and thereafter it remains the Holy Grail by which he/she customizes treatment to suit the patient’s needs.
Every doctor understands that each patient is different, that the norms we follow do have exceptions. From early on in med school, students are taught to pick up on the tiniest of details: the colour of the patient’s skin, the shape of their fingers, their posture, their demeanor, the relation they share with their relatives, their self-confidence – and though these may seem irrelevant to the patient, they are very significant for the Doctor in making a diagnosis. Therefore, you might be wiser in understanding that an experienced doctor will see through your lies.
However, on the very possible chance that they don’t, you may be putting yourself in greater risk than you are already in, simply by lying to your doctor.
Here are a few things you must never lie about to your Doctor:
1. Symptoms and their Intensity:
This one goes both ways.
There are those who downplay their symptoms: like pain, or fatigue during stress tests, and even those who hide certain symptoms like a long-standing backache, or chronic breathlessness, in the hope that it might reduce their treatment duration, or simply to convince themselves that they are more resistant than they seem to be.
Conversely, there are those who crank their symptoms up a notch, pretending that their discomfort or pain is much greater than it really is, often to get painkillers and other drugs prescribed by the doctor in larger doses or for longer periods.
Understand that both of the above actions might prove hazardous for your health, and may lead to complications in an existing disease.
If your doctor asks you whether you are consuming medication other than what he/she has prescribed, it’s essential to answer truthfully.
Several medications interact with each other within the body. Some interactions have a positive synergic effect in treatment, but others may interact to give toxic byproducts, which can harm you.
Therefore, the doctor needs to prescribe medication in keeping with the drugs that you are already on. This list includes medication for any chronic diseases like diabetes, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, birth control pills, nutritional supplements and also tablets or pills prescribed by practitioners of alternative medicine, like Homeopathy or Ayurveda.
It is also important to tell your doctor about missed doses, especially with regard to antibiotics and birth control pills. It not only plays an important role in the duration of your treatment, but also helps in diagnosing complications, if any arise.
3. Previous Diseases/Surgeries:
Well before the advent of the new millennium, there was an institution of Family Doctors in place. Family Doctors, as the word suggests, treated entire families, and knew the medical histories of each member. The importance of knowing past medical histories has not changed, but the way medicine is practiced has. In the current day and age, people change doctors ever so often.
However, this has placed a new responsibility on patients: to make sure that every new doctor they approach is aware of their past medical history.
From minor fractures, to major surgeries and diseases – they are all essentials which your doctor must be aware of. This knowledge is important for the doctor to understand your body constitution: for example, frequent fractures could be related to reduced bone density, or frequent previous hospitalizations may be a sign of a weak immune system.
All these details are taken into consideration when a diagnosis is made.
Allergies can be phenomenally disastrous as they escalate from nothing to life-threatening in a matter of minutes. Allergies are diverse – they could be triggered by anything ranging from peanuts, cat hair, pollen, insect bites, to drugs, surgical anesthesia, sometimes even the thread used for sutures!
Allergies can quickly send a person into anaphylactic shock, causing one’s blood pressure to drop and airways to constrict, vomiting, intense skin reactions or even loss of consciousness.
Therefore, talking about your allergies with your doctor is important. That way, your doctor will be aware of the drugs that he/she should avoid while prescribing, and even give you pointers on how to carry out first-aid in case you do have a serious allergic reaction.
5. Sexual Activity:
Probably the most awkward conversations between doctors and their patients are about the sexual life of the patient. Granted, it is a sensitive topic, but there’s no denying that it’s a vital one.
You should know that all conversations between a legal adult and his/her doctor are confidential, and that the doctor is bound to keep this confidentiality both legally and ethically.
So the patient should rest assured knowing that the problems discussed in the physician’s clinic remain personal.
There are several things that a patient and a doctor can gain by having this conversation honestly. The doctor will be able to clearly understand if the patient is at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, or if he/she is going through other challenges, like Bacterial/Yeast Vaginal infections, Penile Erectile Dysfunctions, etc. The patient will be well informed about care that he/she must take to prevent any such disorders. A doctor can give specific, factual information about pregnancies, birth control, STI’s and can come up with a proactive plan of treatment to cope with any of these.
6. Pregnancies and Abortions:
The two groups of patients who probably have the most difficulty talking honestly about this with their doctors are: Those who have difficulty in conceiving; and those who have had more than one abortion. There are several reasons why there must be no secrets withheld from the doctor about this topic:
i. If you are of child-bearing age but have problems conceiving, the doctor can find out more about underlying causes and suggest treatments.
ii. If you have had previous pregnancies, the doctor needs to know every detail about them, in order to predict the proceedings of the next pregnancy, or the chances of conceiving again and several other details.
iii. If you have had previous abortions, the doctor needs to know why you had them, so as to make sure that the fetus had no congenital abnormalities, or to know whether it was a miscarriage.
iv. It’s also important to mention stillbirths, if you have had any, so that the doctor can make an effort to avoid them in the future.
Often, teenagers and young adults are scared to speak about abortions and pregnancies they may have had, due to social stigmas associated with them.
A pregnancy takes a toll your body, and you may be in need of several supplements or drugs to help you recover; without proper post-natal care, you are highly susceptible to developing other complications.
7. Mental and Emotional Health:
If you think you are suffering emotionally or mentally, it’s important to confess it to your physician. Improving emotional health leads to significant improvement in your quality of life, and overall wellbeing.
It is known that emotionally healthy people also recover faster from traumatic accidents and surgeries.
However, this does not just limit itself to big and obvious disorders, but also to the seemingly insignificant changes that happen in day to day life, like stress at home, pressure from work, or any worries or tensions that you might be going through.
You should also know that some physical disorders are the direct result of your emotional health, like Heart Attacks, Brain Disorders and Gastrointestinal Disorders, to name a few.
Apart from prescribing drugs to improve the symptoms, the doctor can also recommend therapy to help you recover.
8. Family Background:
Genetics determines much of our predisposition to diseases. Many diseases are passed down purely based on genes, so patients trying to hide the diseases that run in their family might actually be doing so to reassure themselves that the same diseases cannot materialize with them.
But to treat knowledge about your family’s health background as a burden is simply ignorant; patients must use it as an asset, to try and minimize any risks that might provoke the disease in themselves.
Some disorders skip generations, some are passed down from mothers to sons only; sometimes you may be carrying genes for a disease that you are not suffering from but which may happen to your children. However, it’s impossible for a patient to exactly know if he/she possesses these genes. This is where your doctor plays an important role – not only are there biochemical tests to map your genes, but there are also simpler, less expensive ways like making a family tree, to help you understand your risks better.
The most important advantage of doing this is to predict what disorders your children might have; some disorders like Hemophilia, Sickle Cell disease, Fabry Disease are present from birth; therefore knowing about these beforehand will better equip young parents to deal with their children’s diseases.
9. Hazards at Work:
The diseases you develop can be a direct result of the kind of environment you spend your time in: and this includes your work environment. The onset of a disease brings about a series of symptoms which you might not be able to understand, but if you have an inkling that these might be related to a poor work environment, you need to clearly tell your doctor about it.
Every job comes with its own pressures, but some come with medical hazards.
People involved in Construction Work, Mines, Chemical and Industrial Factories are prone to developing breathing or lung disorders; labourers are prone to developing diseases of the joints, bones, muscles; people working in high stress situations such as working with deadlines, or in a position of authority may develop Cardiovascular or Psychological disorders; even people with desk jobs are prone to developing Postural diseases, or disorders related to eyesight.
However, patients are often scared to complain about abysmal work environments due to fear of their employer, fear of losing their job, etc.
However, this fear should not be a reason to hide this information from your physician. Hazards at work can cause life-threatening diseases, and thus must be addressed on time.
Beyond a doubt, maintaining an honest dialogue between yourself and your doctor is the easiest way to keep your healthcare hassle free and in your command.
Article by: Saylee Gokhale
Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy, Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Federation.
Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine