I understand not wanting to have certain things in your medical chart, but it's never a good idea to lie to your doctor—the person who's job it is to help keep you healthy. Why do you do it? Probably for the same reason as everyone else: you are scared to displease your doctor, you want his or her approval, or you're just a little embarrassed. And perhaps people believe that if their doctor gives them a clean bill of health it means they are, indeed, really healthy.
The problem is that some of the information we withhold is actually vital for our doctor to know—and not telling could seriously harm our healthcare. As a doctor I can promise you that I'm not a mind reader or psychic who can look at your body and know everything, and it just makes my work that much harder when I don’t have all the information I need. So to help you and your doctor out, here are the six things you shouldn't be lying about.
1. "I eat healthy."
We are understanding more and more that most ailments can be resolved with an improvement in diet. Whether the problem is caused by food allergies or sensitivities or because the food is simply filled with toxins and fat. In my clinical experience, my patients’ symptoms will invariably improve when they clean up their diet. So I find it interesting when people tell me that they eat a healthy diet—especially those individuals who have heart disease, diabetes or are trying to lose weight—when they really don't.
There's no shame in telling the truth because your body is already speaking for you. If you're truly eating clean and your body is still showing signs of high cholesterol, high blood sugar or lack of weight loss, then there are several tests that can be done to look for another cause—and the test will tell me what you aren't. The same goes for individuals with eating disorders, whether it is starvation, binging or overeating, the body and the test won’t lie. Letting us know that you're struggling will only help you in the long run; we can help guide you and support you through the process and find other experts or medications to help as well!
2. "I'm taking my medications as prescribed."
Though I do understand the tendency to fib on the diet, I never quite understood why patients stretch the truth about the medications they're taking, how often they're taking them, and whether or not they're taking them at all. Often, patients stop their medication because of the side effects or the cost, not realizing that if they told their doctor, a solution could easily be found. Other patients forget to take their medications and rather than report that they're having trouble remembering, they just say they're taking them regularly.
3. "I sometimes take Tylenol or use an herb for pain."
Even more common, I find, is the tendency to stretch the truth about taking over-the-counter medications. Patients may say they take ibuprofen or Tylenol every now and then for aches and pains, when really they are taking them multiple times a day. Without your doctor knowing what you are truly ingesting, he or she cannot make an accurate, timely diagnosis. And if you're having symptoms, you might suffer longer because the answer took so long to find.
It's extremely important to list out the supplements, herbs, and any other over-the-counter medications you take—even if it's only once in a while. Herbs and supplements often interact with medications and anything you ingest could be causing allergic reactions or symptoms. Most herbs and supplements aren't regulated, so you don’t always know for sure what you're taking. This may also be true for some generic brands of over-the-counter medications.
4. "I have a glass of wine every now and then."
Let’s face it, drinking is common and doctors know it. They also know that having a glass of wine (or two for men) a day may actually benefit your health. Drinking can also be harmful for a variety of reasons and may be the cause of your inability to lose weight, poor sleep, or heartburn. Without admitting to how much you drink, your doctor could put you through a rigor of tests that you may not even need.
5. "It only hurts a little."
If you're like my father, you tend to downplay your symptoms because you're scared of what it could be and don’t want to worry anyone else. Know that not fully disclosing what and how you're feeling can seriously jeopardize your health. So tell the truth! Even better, be specific and answer these questions: How are you feeling? What causes this to feel better and what causes it to get worse? Where are you feeling it ,exactly? When does it seem to happen? Does anything make it better? The more specific, the better. With more information, your doctor can pinpoint exactly what is going on and hopefully take care of the problem before it gets worse.
6. "I feel fine."
It's not easy for anyone to admit they're depressed. Can you imagine telling your doctor that you feel lonely or you don’t seem to get any pleasure from anything anymore? But in today’s fast-paced and high-stress world, depression is more common than most people realize. There are many ways your doctor can help you, guide you, or simply be there to listen. Often, just owning up to it and talking about how you really feel can help.
7. “I always practice safe sex and I never have sexual issues.”
Any talk about sex can be embarrassing, especially with someone you hardly know. Many patients stretch the truth when it comes to condoms and how many sexual partners they've had. But not telling the truth may stunt the workup that's needed—especially if you are having trouble getting pregnant. In this case, your doctor knowing your history could indicate that you've had a sexually transmitted disease in the past that may have caused scarring or damage to your fallopian tubes or uterus. For this reason, it's also important to let your doctor know if you've had any pregnancies or abortions.
Many patients also have difficulty talking about sexual dysfunction. Low libido, difficulty maintaining an erection, vaginal dryness, and no longer enjoying sex are all very common complaints and nothing to be ashamed about. More so, these symptoms are often a sign of something else going on that can be remedied.
8. “I quit smoking.”
No one wants to be judged, so many patients claim they don’t smoke, they quit, or they only have a cigarette once in a while. But smoking can lead to a variety of health issues and can make you more prone to bronchial and sinus infections—which require different antibiotics than the infections non-smokers get.
Remember that your doctor's job is to be your ally—not to judge you. And know that most of us have seen and heard pretty much everything. So the more honest you are, the better.