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The Top 8 Secrets You Keep from Your Doctor

Are you telling your doctor everything he needs to know to take care of you?
By Jennifer Nelson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

At your annual doctor's checkup, you hop up on the exam table and bare your deepest secrets.

You 'fess up about how much alcohol you consume, how many times you smoked last week, the herbal supplements you pop, or the fact that you're battling depression or are anxious about job layoffs at the office. Maybe you tell her you're worried about your 401K rebounding in time for retirement, or your recent new sexual partners.

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No? Isn't everyone sharing this level of information with their doctor?

Apparently not. And that hush-hush attitude may be risky.

Why You're Not Telling

“People often don't share with their doctors aspects of dysfunction in their lives because it's embarrassing and creates a great level of discomfort," says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, FACP,  the medical director of MDVIP, a group of boutique medicine doctors headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla.  “You're not going to share unless you have a very trusting relationship with your doctor."

Patients withhold information from their doctors for a variety of reasons. Often they just don't think their marital problems, anxiety, or worries are fodder for their cholesterol checkup. Or they're embarrassed to bring up touchy topics like sex or bathroom problems like incontinence or constipation.

Others may skip information that they don't think is important. And there's not much time during a checkup to tell all.

But not telling could spell trouble -- even if you'd rather not admit to an inconvenient truth or two.

Everything from your stress to your sexual history to your use of supplements can affect your health and should be disclosed to your doctor.

Here are the top eight secrets you keep from your doctor and why you should spill them.

1. Use of Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines, Herbal Supplements, and Vitamins

You may think the doctor will look down her nose at certain herbs and supplements, but you need to tell her exactly what you take.

Some supplements and OTC products may not mix well with prescription medicines you've been prescribed and could cause a reaction. Patients can even have specific conditions for which they shouldn't take an OTC medicine.

For instance, Kaminetsky says people with liver disease should use acetaminophen sparingly if at all. Likewise, certain weight loss supplements could have cardiac implications for someone with heart disease.

And "natural" does not always mean "safe," according to the web site for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). "For example, the herbs comfrey and kava can cause serious harm to the liver," states NCCAM's web site.

Vitamins and minerals are also something your doctor needs to know about. High doses can be risky; for instance, too much selenium can cause gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, fatigue, irritability, and mild nerve damage, according to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements.

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