A survey of over 1,000 people in Medicare Advantage reports that 56% of patients don’t visit their doctor within a year. Needless to say, nobody likes going to the doctor. But when we need to get checked, it’s best to understand our body, medications, and physician’s role in our health.
Fortunately, kindhearted doctors have been speaking up–on Reddit, news reports, and articles–about everything patients should know. From the function of antibiotics, to which vitamins to report, to which condition displays no symptoms, here are essential health facts that doctors want you to know.
Antibiotics Won’t Relieve All Your Pain
Antibiotics indeed fight off harmful bacteria, which can cure most illnesses. However, one anonymous doctor reminded everyone that “antibiotics are not some magic cure for every pain in your body.” Don’t expect your antibiotic to act as painkillers.
According to the University of Utah’s Genetics Center, antibiotics are designed to target bacteria cells and leave human cells alone. One way they do this is by preventing the formation of a cell wall (which human cells don’t have). Unfortunately, antibiotics tackle both healthy and unhealthy bacteria, which can lead to stomach pain in some people.
Take Notes About Your Symptoms Before The Appointment
According to Consumer Reports, only 33% of patients take notes on their medicine, doses, pain, and symptoms. However, 80% of doctors preferred that their patients would do so.
“When we’re sick our judgment is not as good as it usually is,” says the president of the Center for Advancing Health, Dr. Jessie Gruman. “We don’t remember as well as we usually do.” When you aren’t feeling well, it’s doubly important to write down your symptoms and when you take your medicine. It’ll help your doctor determine your treatment.
Dump Your Doctor If You’re Not Happy With Them
Many people choose a primary care physician at random. But Dr. Jessie Gruman, Ph.D., encourages people to jump ship if they don’t get along with their doctor. “Your doctor is a service provider,” Dr. Gruman asserts. “You wouldn’t have a plumber back who was disrespectful to you or left a mess.”
Dr. Gruman advises patients to audition their doctor on the first appointment. If you have any pre-existing conditions, ask the physician how much experience they have with it. If your doctor acts rude, unorganized, or unwilling to communicate, find another professional.
Being Honest About Your Drug Habits Could Mean Life Or Death
Although many people feel insecure about revealing their smoking or drinking habits, it’s imperative for proper diagnosis. One former hospital director said that their doctors had, at worst, counseled the patient on the risks of smoking.
“We aren’t gonna tell the cops,” the professional said. “We aren’t gonna lecture you. But it might change the anesthesia I give you. Some stuff I give you might kill you.” They go on to say that certain narcotic habits may negate the effect of anesthesia and enhance the side effects of other drugs. In short: Be honest.
You May Feel Normal With High Blood Pressure
An Indian doctor on Reddit encourages everyone over 35 to check their blood pressure once a year. “You often will feel normal even with high blood pressure, as it’s often found incidentally,” she clarified. The American Heart Association agrees that “the only way to know if you have high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension) is to have your blood pressure tested.”
High blood pressure has been labeled as a “silent killer” because most sufferers don’t show symptoms. If left undetected, hypertension may result in heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, or heart attack. Stay up to date with your blood pressure.
Tell Them If You’re Taking Herbal Supplements
Although many people reason that natural herbs don’t have any adverse effects, this is far from the truth. Some herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, will make certain medications inactive. Garlic extracts can thin your blood similarly to aspirin.
Dr. Greg Burke, an internal medicine physician at Geisinger, asserts that doctors need to know about herbal supplements because they can interact with drugs or medications. Also, he adds, some of these treatments are not FDA-approved, which means that manufacturers have free reign to make false claims or include unknown additives.
Be Careful Researching Online
In the Consumer Reports poll, 60% of patients stated that they read about their condition online. However, doctors disagree with this self-diagnosis, to put it mildly. Only 8% of doctors listed online research as helpful.
Dr. Epstein mentions that some websites have “motivations [that] may not be helpful,” such as advertisements or ad revenue. Instead of relying on google, which sorts by page views, go directly to government-run sites. Dr. Epstein recommends the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, and MedlinePlus. Academic websites such as Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic may help as well.
Overall Heart Health Begins In Your 30s
The Centers for Disease Control announced that heart attack is the leading cause of death in the world. Although cardiac disease mostly occurs in older people, prevention begins much earlier–in your 30s and 40s.
“Why wait?” asks Dr. David Friedman, a cardiologist at the North Shore LIJ Health System. He emphasizes that many people wait to care for their heart “until after someone has a heart attack or stress attack,” and by then, it might be too late. Care for your heart early on by exercising, limiting salt and sugar, not smoking, and drinking less alcohol.
Doctors Want To Be Your Long-Term Teammate
In a study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research, patients who stayed with their physician for over one year wrote better reviews of their doctors. In the Consumer Reports poll, 76% of health professionals said that a long-term relationship with their patient would help “very much.” Long-term doctors will learn your symptoms and health history better than new doctors.
“I wish patients would know that their health is about teamwork,” said Dr. Greenberg. “You really need the relationship to make it work.” If you find a physician that you get along with, stay with them. Your mutual respect will benefit your health in the long run.
Explain Your Main Issue Right Away
Understandably, a lot of people feel apprehensive or nervous when they visit the doctor. But most appointments only last around 15 minutes, which means that you need to broach your worst symptoms first. “You spend time with a patient on an ingrown toenail when the real problem is chest pain,” recounts Dr. Sharon Salloum, a former dean and family doctor at the University of British Columbia.
Your most pressing condition deserves the most time, so mention it first. Dr. Salloum likes to hear all complaints first, while other physicians prefer to receive them one at a time. Write down a list and ask your doctor how they want to receive it.
“Detox” Cleanses Aren’t All They Claim To Be
An anonymous doctor on Reddit admonishes patients to not waste money on detox products or services. “Your kidneys and liver cheerfully do all the toxin elimination you’ll ever need,” they said. “Cleanses and other ‘detoxifying’ products are mostly a waste of money.”
Later in the thread, the anonymous medical worker explained that some scammers “use dubious genetic testing to convince people they have a serious illness.” Some of the most frequently mistaken diagnoses include adrenal fatigue, leaky gut syndrome, and Lyme. If you’re concerned about a diagnosis, get tested with another doctor.
You Don’t Always Need Antibiotics
A common misconception that doctors hear is that viral infections, such as colds or flus, need an antibiotic. “It always happens,” says Edmonton physician Dr. Shelby Karpman. “Patients have been trained through past history, through media, through friends, that if they walk out of a physician’s office without a prescription, they haven’t been treated properly.”
Not only do antibiotics not work on common viruses (only bacteria), but they also might come with side effects. Dr. Karpman warns patients that some stressed doctors may give insistent patients a prescription just to get them out of their office. Don’t take needless meds–listen to your doctor.
You Can (And Should) Say If You’re Not Taking Medication As Prescribed
Medicine non-adherence, or not taking your drugs as prescribed, is more common than you might think. In America and Canada, around 50% of people don’t take their medications as prescribed, according to Pillsy. Over 20% of people don’t even fill their prescriptions.
Dr. Steve Chambers, a former president and family physician of the Alberta Medical Association, says that patients don’t want to hurt his feelings by being honest. But he needs to know–especially if you’ve experienced side effects from the drug. “To make sound decisions, the doctor needs as much information as you can provide,” he says.
Don’t Underestimate Type 2 Diabetes
As of 2019, the Center for Disease Control reports that one in ten Americans have Type 2 Diabetes. “Type 2 diabetes is more serious than most people realize,” says one anonymous doctor. “It also affects your eyes, nerves, immune system, etc.”
The American Diabetes Association lists all the potential complications of this disease. Diabetic people develop a high likelihood of skin infections and cataracts. Type 2 Diabetes can also escalate into neuropathy, which is where the brain can no longer connect to nerves. For most people, neuropathy results in being unable to move their hands and feet.
Cold Symptoms Linger For As Long As Two Weeks
Colds, especially in children, tend to last longer than most people assume–up to ten days in some cases. Symptoms such as congestion, cough, discolored phlegm, and fatigue may last up to two weeks. Dr. Damien Mitchell, a pediatrician in Plano, Texas, clarifies that symptoms worsening “after five days” call for another medical check.
Dr. Mitchell adds that discolored drainage could indicate infection, but not necessarily a sinus infection. Listen to your doctor about potential causes. He also cautions that a “persistent fever over 101 degrees” is cause for another check-up.
Chronic Pain Is Hard To Treat
Most often, people go to the doctor because they feel pain. In response, doctors aim to eliminate the root of the pain, which is difficult to do, especially with chronic illness. “For patients with chronic conditions, medical science can’t necessarily take away all of their suffering,” admits Dr. Ronald Epstein, M.D., medical director of the University of Rochester Medical Center.
If you’re chronically ill, Dr. Epstein recommends building a relationship with a doctor who involves you in their decision-making. Feel free to discuss, question, and clarify (politely) the professional’s choices or diagnoses.
Know Which Medications You’re Taking
On the Reddit thread, a German doctor mentioned a tip that seems basic but impacts the health professional significantly. “I wish my patients would know what meds they are on when they come to the hospital,” they said. A pharmacist chimed in and revealed that “people come to collect medication and have no idea what they should be getting or what it’s for.”
According to several other doctors in the thread, not every hospital has a medical database listing everything you’re taking. Doctors also haven’t memorized every pill shape and color. To keep things simple, write down your meds on an app, sheet of paper, or planner.
Sun Exposure Is Less About Wrinkles And More About Health
“I wish patients knew the reason to avoid the sun these days is less about wrinkles and aging, and more about life and death,” reports Dr. Michael Greenberg, a dermatologist at the Illinois Dermatology Institute. He explicitly mentions melanoma, a type of skin cancer where pigmented cells mutate and become cancerous.
Most dermatologists highlight sunscreen as being the most vital skincare product. The American Academy of Dermatology records that one in five Americans will develop melanoma in their life. To prevent future disease, use a 30 SPF sunscreen every day if you’ll be outside.
Admit When You’re Obese Or Overweight
The Centers for Disease Control illustrates that 40% of Americans are obese, equivalent to 93 million people. However, many people are afraid to admit it. Family physician Dr. Mark Fromberg says that patients tend to perceive obesity as a body-image issue and not a precondition for over 35 health complications.
Of all the people who might judge overweight people, good doctors definitely won’t. They’re more concerned with higher health risks. Harvard Public Health lists the complications of obesity as being heart disease, arthritis, nerve disorders, memory failure, dementia, respiratory infection, pregnancy complications, depression, kidney disease, and eight different types of cancer.
Learn Your Own Anatomy
“Many, many gynecologists and obstetricians wish their patients were familiar with their own anatomy,” expresses Dr. Nathaniel DeNicola of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. DeNicola says that this could be detrimental to a person’s diagnosis. For instance, women may mix up their pelvic exam with a Pap smear, and mistakenly report that they’ve had a Pap smear–delaying the detection of cervical cancer.
Patients’ lack of knowledge surrounding their own bodies has to do with the lack of sex education in America, but that’s a conversation for another day. For now, make sure you read up on your major organs. You may need to know for future diagnosis.