7 Questions Doctors Really Wish You Would Ask Them
Going to the doctor can be a whirlwind. You wait forever, your appointment flies by (the average one lasts just 20 minutes), and then suddenly you re on your way home. Which is probably when all those questions you meant to ask pop into your head. And the same is probably true of your doc there s a lot that s left unsaid on both sides during rushed appointments. But that doesn t have to be the case. Remembering to ask the questions below will help you stay on top of your health; after all, if you don t bring them up, your doctor probably won t either. (Feel better starting today with Rodale s The Thyroid Cure, a new book that s helped thousands of people finally solve the mystery of what s ailing them.)
Don t assume that you re in the clear just because your doctor doesn t say anything about your weight. It s surprising, but they likely won t bring up this touchy subject themselves. A 2010 report from STOP Obesity Alliance notes that the topic of BMI was ignored at nearly half of visits, and 70% of obese patients weren t diagnosed as obese. If you know you ve gained or lost more weight than is comfortable (maybe you re under stress or just experienced a big life event causing the scale to tip up or down), don t be afraid to open up the discussion your doc likely has ideas on where to start.
Shockingly, this is something you really should ask (nicely, of course!). Even if docs tell you to wash up all the time, that doesn t mean they re heeding their own advice. According to a few sources, docs follow proper hygiene practices just 30% or 40% of the time. And in a newly presented study for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, researchers found that health care providers who knew they were being watched were more likely to grab the soap. It may be an uncomfortable topic to broach, but could save you from getting sick. You can always soften it by saying something like, I know, it seems crazy to ask you but I m just so paranoid!
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The growing doctor shortage means it s more difficult than ever to get an appointment and sometimes you need to be seen, stat, like when you come down with that mysterious rash or a nasty cough. In many states, like Iowa, Colorado, and the District of Columbia, nurse practitioners can evaluate patients, diagnose, and prescribe medications. (Hopefully, more states will initiate the same laws, per Institute of Medicine recommendations.) Click here to see if nurses in your state can see you.
As soon as you feel the sniffles come on, you probably hit up Dr. Google or a symptom checker app to try to figure out what could be going on. However, it pays to be cautious with these tools, as some have been shown to be highly inaccurate. A 2015 study published in the BMJ analyzed the accuracy of diagnosis and advice from symptom checkers and discovered that they provided the correct diagnosis just 58% of the time (docs themselves get it right in as many as 90% of cases), and that these resources gave the right advice half the time. (But luckily, the advice to go get care immediately presumably in the most serious cases was right 80% of the time.) Docs don t know every app out there, but it s worth it to ask about your go-to. That way you won t have to be convinced that, yep, you probably will need that leg amputated. when it s really just a bee sting.
Slathering on SPF every day is one powerful measure to protect you from skin cancer. Doing so can decrease your risk of melanoma, the most deadly form, by up to 73%. It s crazy to think, then, that doctors keep mum on the subject. But they do: In a study published in JAMA Dermatology that looked at 18.3 billion patient visits over a 20-year period, doctors mentioned sunscreen less than 1% of the time even if that patient had a prior skin cancer. (And derms only mentioned SPF at 1.6% of visits.) Talking to your doc is the first step in practicing good sun protective behaviors.
Whether financial worries, a health scare in the family, or problems with your in-laws are making you feel down, don t discredit those feelings. While there s a push for more docs to screen for depression, symptoms aren t always obvious during an appointment, especially when you re there for a completely different reason. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that less than one-third of people with depression were being treated.
If you re saddled with discomfort or pressure in your chest, dizziness/nausea, and shortness of breath a few signs of a heart attack it s critical that you act as your own advocate to your doctor. In fact, according to the Office on Women s Health, it often takes persistence to get life-saving help. In a 2016 UK study, 30% of heart attack sufferers received the wrong diagnosis which increases your risk of dying and women were as much as 59% more likely to be misdiagnosed. Describing your symptoms clearly, specifically, calmly and using the phrase I ve never felt this before will help the doctor diagnose you correctly. You may even need to ask if you are having a heart attack or request an ECG and blood test.