Here's How To Ask Your Doctor Those Embarrassing Questions

At home - often late at night - you know exactly what's worrying you about your health. It may be that you feel depressed or anxious; that you've started having problems with a leaky bladder (a second kid can do that, especially if you aren't doing Kegels routinely); or that you just don't think your sex life is going like it should.

But for some reason when you're in the doctor's office for an annual checkup or to get care for an acute problem, like a sore throat, you can't bring those subjects up. Well, you're not alone. Almost everyone has swallowed a major health question, and then left a doctor's appointment feeling miffed about it.

What's Hard to Talk About?

Especially tough topics are those about bowel movements and urination, sexual function and/or satisfaction, STDs, mental health issues, and memory/dementia problems. That's because it's hard to break through the embarrassment associated with the subject or the stigma associated with having such problems. But remember, your doc has heard and seen it all a million times.

Other topics folks are often reluctant to ask about are potential side effects of prescribed treatments, alternative treatment options and getting a second opinion. Patients say they fear that the doctor will be offended or feel second-guessed and that their quality of care will be affected. If that's your situation, get another doc.

Another stumbling block: Financial concerns that make it difficult to take medications as prescribed. Docs can often suggest ways to lower medicine costs with alternative medications or by using samples, coupons, manufacturer's support programs or online sources that search for the lowest-priced meds.

It's important that you bring up these tough-to-talk-about concerns, because good doctor-patient communication improves your health outcomes for everything from chronic headaches to emotional wellbeing and helps lower blood sugar levels in folks with diabetes, reduces elevated blood pressure and more.

Believe it or not, your doctor wants you to ask - and ask often. In fact, in this day and age of short-and-not-so-sweet 10-minute appointment slots and practices that rotate doctors so you might not see the same practitioner every time and have a chance to build a relationship, you need to be an active partner with your doctor and see that you get the time and attention you need.

Making It Easier on Yourself

Let's look at some techniques you can use to make it easier for you to ask these kinds of questions.

1. Write down all the questions you have about your health, how you're feeling, your medications, personal habits (say smoking or drinking) and any upcoming treatments that might be scheduled. Review them and then put them in order of importance to you. It's a lot easier to get them out there when you're reading them off a paper or on your phone.

2. Tell the doctor you have a written list of questions you want to go over. If you find there isn't time to get to them all, ask if you can email the other questions to him or her and/or set up another appointment or a phone call. Some docs are overwhelmed with emails, so it can be hard to respond.

3. Don't hesitate to bring someone along to help you bring up the topic(s). Talk them over with your partner, friend or family member beforehand, then the person can mention the subject to the doctor during your appointment - "You know, Mary is worried about how tired the blood pressure medicine makes her feel," or "She's mentioned that she often feels depressed lately." That'll break the ice for you.

4. Ask the doctor point blank, "Do you have any questions you want to ask me that you haven't brought up?" You may be surprised that your concerns overlap.

Being embarrassed is an uncomfortable feeling for sure, but it's a lot more uncomfortable to suffer in silence with a potentially serious health issue.

©2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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