Six Conversations You Should Have With Your Doctor
Maybe it's a funny twinge, or a bad mood you can't seem to shake. All of us get persistent symptoms now and then that we can't explain. Do you speak up or keep quiet? If you're like many Americans, you may be suffering in silence. That could be because of "white-coat hypertension," a well-documented condition related to the stress that doctor visits sometimes trigger. Or maybe you were simply taught that the doctor is always right. Happily, that attitude is changing: Studies show more and more patients are becoming their own advocates, educating themselves on health issues and expecting more open communication from their healthcare providers. Here are six topics you should be sure to discuss with your doctor.
Fatigue. It's normal to feel tired at the end of a long day or stressful week, but chronic fatigue can signal several potentially serious health problems, including thyroid disease, anemia, and even heart disease. Or you may suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a condition that affects between 1 and 4 million Americans and often goes untreated. Your best bet: Take notes on your symptoms and discuss them with your doctor. Include how often you feel tired, whether you have trouble sleeping, and any major events going on in your life. Your doctor may decide to run blood tests to pinpoint the problem.
Headaches. Usually an over-the-counter pain medication—or even a 10-minute nap—is enough to zap a headache. In rare cases, though, a severe or long-lasting headache can be a sign of serious health conditions. Call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room if you have these symptoms:
- You can't see or are seeing double
- You feel weak or numb, have trouble hearing or speaking, or feel unsteady on your feet
- You're afraid you may pass out
- You've recently suffered a head injury
Change in moles. Most skin moles are harmless, but there are some to watch out for. Talk to your doctor if you see any changes in a mole's color, size, or appearance or if new ones crop up. Moles that itch or feel tender need to be checked out, too.
Stomach pain. Sever tummy distress can be a symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a condition that affects as many as 1 in 5 Americans. Unfortunately, fewer than half seek help. Other symptoms include bloating or cramping, gas, and diarrhea or constipation. Talk to your doctor (keep a food diary, and bring it with you to your appointment) to determine the best treatment plan.
Birth control. These days you have more choices than ever—from condoms, diaphragms, and vaginal rings to pills, patches, and more. Rather than sticking with the standard birth control pill, you may want to try one of the newer kinds that reduces your period to just four times a year. Discuss your options thoroughly with your doctor so you can decide what's right for you.
Feeling blue. We all get down in the dumps sometimes, but persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety or a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed could be signs of something more serious. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms last longer than a few weeks to find out if you need help for depression.