The Four Things You Should Never Lie to Your Doctor About


Telling a ‘little white lie’ to your doctor can have a big impact on your health.

By Shilpi Agarwal M.D.,

Fibbing about a few things to your doctor now and then isn’t really that big of a deal, right? More than 40 percent of Americans admitted that they’ve lied to their doctor during a checkup. But a little white lie could turn in big health problems. Omitting information, bending the truth or straight up lying can change how your doctor cares for you and the advice she gives you.

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Here are four things you should definitely tell the truth about:

How much alcohol you drink
You hear the term “binge drinking” and probably think of crazy college parties, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70 percent of binge drinking actually happens in adults over 26. Women who drink too much — more than one drink a day — may be at an increased risk of both breast cancer and heart disease. So try to recount honestly all the drinks you typically have in a week (including the large glasses of wine that may equal two drinks) when chatting with your doctor. Besides advice on how to cut down, your doctor can check your liver enzymes to make sure there are no long-term effects that you may be unaware of.

Your Mood
Do you feel like you constantly have less energy than usual, find little pleasure or interest in the things you used to enjoy or feel down for long periods of time? Even if you think you’re just feeling overwhelmed by day-to-day life or feeling moody, it’s important to discuss even slight mood changes with your doctor. He can assess whether you have depression or another medical condition that can lead to depression, such as a thyroid disorder, so you get the right treatment and start to feel better.

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Your sex life
It’s bad enough that you have to get undressed and wear a tiny paper gown, but giving the details about your sexual history can be even more nerve wracking. Some women feel like they have to lie about using contraception or alter their number of sexual partners. And that’s the problem: When you lie, whether outright or by omission — you run the risk of not being adequately tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or counseled on how to fully protect yourself against them. STDs, like herpes and HIV, can exist without any symptoms, so making your doctor aware of any possible exposure is crucial so he can test you.

Even if you’re just a “social” smoker — a cigarette or two when you’re at happy hour — or trying to cut down and eventually quit, you’ve got to tell your doctor. Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and has even been associated with premature aging. If you smoke, heavy or hardly ever, it’s a part of your health history that is crucial to you how your doctor monitors you. She can also help you enroll in free smoking cessation programs, or possibly give you a prescription nicotine alternative if you are struggling to quit.

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It’s your physician’s job to evaluate your health and guide you on the path to better living. She can provide the most accurate diagnoses and advice, and help you stay healthy if she has a truthful account of your lifestyle. Don’t fear judgment from your doctor. If you don’t feel completely comfortable with her, get a recommendation from someone you trust to find a doctor who you feel you can be honest with.

For more medical musings from Dr. Shilpi visit her website.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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