Women, Don’t Lie About Your Health To The Doctor

Appointment With A DoctorEverybody lies. Whether it’s a white lie, a lie by omission, or a lie by exaggeration, women lie for different reasons.  We tell lies to our mothers, our partners, our friends.  But the one person we should not ever lie to is our doctor.  Even the smallest fib or the most innocent half-truth can have serious consequences to your health.  Keeping something from your doctor, even if you’re not sure whether it’s important or not, can mislead him about your health condition and keep him from making the correct diagnoses.

Some women stretch the truth about how often they exercise, downplay their smoking or drinking habits, or tell half-truths about their sexual activities and behavior.  They do this to avoid being lectured and judged because they know that they are not committing to living healthy the way they should.

Other women omit certain facts because they are ashamed or they don’t really think it matters.  They don’t think it’s important to mention that they experimented with drugs a few times in college, or that they had an STD once, or a single pill they missed to take.

Telling your doctor the truth and nothing but the truth can mean the difference between life and death.  That is not an exaggeration.  Your doctor needs to know absolutely everything in order for him to make a correct diagnosis about your health and give you the proper and prompt treatment when needed.  There is no minor or unimportant detail when it comes to your health.  Here are the following lies you should never, ever tell your doctor.

LIE: “I floss regularly.”

This is one of the most common lies dentists hear everyday.  Patients would lie about how often they floss, if they ever do.

Flossing is not as simple as removing those food stuck in between your teeth.  Regular flossing keeps your teeth free from decay and your gums free from inflammation and disease.  Some studies have shown that gum disease may be linked to cardiovascular disease and preeclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy complication.  But if your dentist is aware that you do not floss, he can watch out for these complications and help you prevent them.

LIE: “I never had a history of STD.”

Having had a sexually transmitted disease may be embarrassing for some women to admit.  Some lie about having an STD for insurance purposes.  Others just think that it’s nobody else’s business, especially it happened years ago and was already taken care of.

A history of STD puts you at risk for other serious health conditions.  For example, HPV increases your risk of having cervical cancer and if your gynecologist is not aware that you had it before, he may not require annual Pap smear tests, which are important to screen for this cancer.  A history of gonorrhea or Chlamydia can scar your fallopian tubes and prevent a fertilized egg from reaching the uterus.  If your doctor knows about this, he can watch out for pregnancy complications, specifically ectopic pregnancy.  Having had genital herpes, even if it was years ago, may cause pre-delivery flare-ups in pregnant women, and if your obstetrician is aware of this, he can put you on medication to prevent this.

LIE: “I’m monogamous.”

Women lie about their sex lives because they don’t want to be judged.  However, if you get an STD and you are not honest with your doctor about how many men you are sleeping with, your treatment may take longer than necessary, which can lead to more complications.

Your doctor is not there to judge you but to make sure that you get the proper treatment.  Your doctor’s main concern is whether or not you are at risk for STDs and related complications.  If he is not aware of your sexual activity, treatment of your STD can be delayed.  This can lead to a more serious pelvic infection, fertility problems, or cervical cancer.  But if your gynecologist knows that you have several sexual partners, he can watch out for STDs and complications by giving you annual Pap smear exams.

LIE: “I’m just an occasional drinker.”

Doctors are aware that women always downplay their drinking habits.  Lying about how much alcohol a woman drinks is so common that whatever amount a woman tells her doctor, the doctor doubles that amount in his records.  Most women lie about their drinking because they don’t want to be lectured, for the nth time, about the risks of drinking alcohol.  Or they are simply in denial about their drinking problem, which is a disease in itself.

Telling your doctor about your alcohol drinking habits is important when being given prescription medication.  There are a lot of medications that should not be taken with alcohol.  For example, if your doctor prescribed you an antidepressant, like Zoloft, you should not drink any alcohol while taking it.  If you disregard your doctor’s orders, you may end up in the hospital with cold sweats and heart palpitations.

If you tell your doctor that you drink, even a little, he can prescribe you medication that won’t react badly with a glass of wine.  And even though you may not want to hear it, your doctor would remind you of the risks of drinking alcohol.  Even having as little as one glass per day increases your risk for breast cancer.  Heavy drinking may lead to liver disease, brain damage, and stroke; inebriation also puts you at risk for assault and car accidents.

LIE: “I have a healthy diet and I exercise regularly.”

A lot of women bend the truth about their diet and exercise regimen because, again, they don’t want to be lectured.  Even if the scales are showing evidence to the contrary, women still lie about watching their calorie intake.

Some lie by being vague when asked how often they exercise.  Others lie by subtle deceptions, saying that they exercise daily, when what they actually mean is they walk to the bus stop everyday and that’s enough daily exercise for them.

Women, whether or not they are overweight even by only a few pounds, who are predisposed to certain diseases should always be honest about their calorie intake and how often they exercise.  If you have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and are borderline diabetic, the first thing your doctor would recommend is that you stick to a healthier diet and exercise regularly.  If you don’t take this recommendation seriously and lie about it, and your numbers are not getting lower, he would have to put you through a battery of tests and prescribe medications to help you lower your numbers.  These would just cost you more money and cause you discomfort.  All medications have side effects, including muscle aches, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and lower libido among others, depending on the type of medication.  Because you consider taking drugs simpler, you may become dependent on them and become more complacent with your diet and exercise.  This would just result in continuing health problems instead of those problems being solved.

LIE: “I’m not a smoker.”

Some women don’t consider themselves smokers because they don’t smoke two packs of cigarettes a day.  When they go to the doctor, they don’t think it’s important to let the doctor know that they do smoke because they really only do it on the weekends, anyway, or they only take a couple of drags every time.

To your doctor, though, it does matter to know that you do smoke, regardless of how often.  If you’re taking hormones, lighting up, even if you only do it on rare occasions, still increases your risk for blood clots and stroke.  If you need a prescription for the pill for contraceptive purposes or simply to clear up your skin or regulate your menstruation, it’s important that you’re honest with your doctor about your smoking habits.  Yes, he’ll probably remind you of the more serious risks of smoking, which you already know, like respiratory disease, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer.  But if you need medication, he can figure out a safer option for you.

LIE: “I never go out without sunscreen.”

Whether you were only giving yourself a tan or not, you should let your doctor know if you are using sunscreen everyday, especially whenever you go to the beach.  If your doctor knows that you don’t regularly use sunscreen when you go out, or not at all, he would also know to watch out for melanomas, a form of skin cancer that is very common and very serious.  He would know to schedule you for screenings more often than he would if you kept assuring him that you slather on your sun protection.  If you do develop skin cancer, your doctor would be able to catch it early if he’s in the know.  It’s also important to be honest especially when you need medication for acne or wrinkles, because certain drugs can make you more sensitive to the sun.

LIE: “I’m following your prescription to the dot.”

Sometimes, we take our doctor’s warnings about our medications with a grain of salt.  If you’re using an inhaler for your asthma, for example, you may be using it more often than what your doctor said would be safe for you.  You may not care about the side effects, like trembling hands and a pallid face, as long as you can breathe more easily.  And even if your doctor notices these symptoms, you would deny not following his instructions, because you’re afraid he would take your medication away.

It’s very important for your doctor to be able to correctly assess how you are reacting to your medication.  If the treatment is not very effective or you are experiencing side effects, he can prescribe a different medication that will work and suit you better.  However, if the reason why your medication is not working or you are having side effects is because you are not following your doctor’s orders, you may end up making your condition worse.  For example, if you are misusing your antibiotics and you finish your prescription days before you can get a refill, you’ll be giving plenty of time for the bacteria to wreak havoc unimpeded and your simple bladder infection may turn into a kidney infection, or worse, a blood infection.

LIE: “I’m not on any medication.”

Sometimes, not telling your doctor about the over-the-counter vitamins you are taking is an honest mistake because you don’t consider them as medication.  Other times, you lie about buying weight loss pills online because your doctor might not approve.

If your doctor needs to give you a prescription, he has to know if you’re taking other drugs which may react badly to what he is prescribing or may alter its effects.  The adage, “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” is overrated.  In this case, what your doctor does not know may kill you.  Ibuprofen, for example, is a weak blood thinner, and it’s important for your doctor to know that you are taking it if he needs to put you on another blood thinner medication or a medication that may aggravate this side effect.  It is not uncommon for some patients to have seizures or respiratory arrest after taking doctor-prescribed medication because they lied to their doctor about other drugs they are on.

LIE: “I always use birth control.”

Some women feel embarrassed to admit that they messed up their birth control, like forgetting to put in their diaphragm because they were drunk, or not taking their pills at the same time everyday.  These are easy things to manage and they’d rather say that the condom broke that’s why they got pregnant, rather than admit that it was their fault.

It may take time to find the right contraception that suits you.  However, if your doctor does not know about the problems you may be encountering with your current form of contraception, he won’t be able to make appropriate recommendations that could help you.  It is okay to say that you just don’t like swallowing pills, or that your skin is very oily and your patch keeps falling off.  Practicing good judgment is more important that avoiding minor embarrassment during consultation.

Always remember, when it comes to your health it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Having a completely honest relationship with your doctor is for your own good, both in the short and the long run.

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1 Response

  1. Alba says:

    Why women lie to the doctor is partially their fault. The other part of responsibility is over doctor and medical team itself. As doctors are humans, they have their judgments; but nobody likes to be (mal)judged. The same happen to women who hardly find doctor who they really trust.

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