Going to the doctor can be stressful. Whether it's for a general exam or a specific illness, there is often so much information to take in that we don't think to ask questions during the visit. Sometimes we may even avoid asking them because we are ashamed or embarrassed or because we don't think it's anything to worry about.
It's important to remember that no question is too big or too small to ask your primary care physician. Even if it seems embarrasing to you, your doctor is well prepared to answer your questions and help ease your mind. Withholding questions can prevent your physician from giving you a proper diagnosis or treatment plan. In order to make sure you receive the best and most complete care possible, it may be helpful to keep the following five questions in mind to ask your doctor during your next appointment.
1. What Screenings or Tests Do I Need?
If you have a family history of a disease, you're at an increased risk of developing that disease. If it isn't already on your file, make sure you tell your doctor about any diseases that run in your family. Ask if you will need to be tested and how often. Don't limit your family history to just your parents, siblings, or children -- more distant relatives should also be included. You may also want to ask if there are any age-specific screenings you need. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force provides guidelines for screenings, but you and your doctor may want to work out a different timeline based on your health and other factors.
2. Am I at a Normal/Healthy Weight?
Maintaining a normal weight is important for overall health. While there are weight guidelines based on age and height, your doctor will also consider your physical activity, medications, and any health issues that might contribute to weight gain or loss. Body mass index (BMI) has long been the standard by which weight is measured, but some researchers have argued that it is an outdated method of evaluating health and well-being. It can still be useful, however, when used in conjunction with your medical history and lifestyle.
3. Do I Need to Make Any Lifestyle Changes?
Your lifestyle has a significant effect on your health. If you are predominantly sedentary, your doctor may recommend getting more exercise to lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, and other conditions. Starting off small and making incremental changes to your lifestyle can make a world of difference.
4. Should I Continue Taking My Current Medication or Supplements?
Our bodies and needs are always changing. Medication you started taking a year ago may no longer be effective at the current dosage, or it may not be necessary anymore. Your primary-care physician should have a list of your current prescriptions on file, but be sure to let her know if there is anything else you're taking. This will allow her to make sure your medications or supplements don't interfere with each other, as drug interactions can make medications less effective or cause side effects.
5. Is This Pain/Discomfort Normal?
Minor pain or discomfort is usually nothing to worry about it. If you have persistent pain or discomfort that doesn't go away after taking over-the-counter medication, you'll definitely want to bring it to your doctor's attention. Depending on the location, the pain you're experiencing could be something serious, even if it feels relatively innocuous. Anything that lingers is worth having checked out.
It's important to be as honest and forthcoming as possible with your primary-care physician. Even if you are embarrassed to ask a question, chances are she's heard it before. Just remember that she isn't there to judge you; she's there to help you get -- and stay -- healthy.