The Ten Things You Must Tell Your Primary Care Physician

MDVIP | February 24, 2009

Does your primary care physician know:

  • Your sexual habits?
  • Your sleep habits?
  • Recreational habits?
  • Financial situation?

If you answered no to any of these questions, or wondered why he or she should know about your private affairs, you could be playing with fire and restricting your physician’s ability to make a diagnosis.

Dr. Bernard Kaminetsky, the Medical Director of MDVIP, Inc., a national network of affiliated primary care physicians, says: “Your primary care doctor must know everything about you, even if the discussion feels a little bit uncomfortable. Remember, there are very strict privacy laws between patient and doctor, so the information is not going to be shared. But what you omit may be the key to a diagnosis.”

The ten things you must tell your primary care physician include:

1. OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDS YOU ARE TAKING —You must tell your doctor if you are taking Tylenol, Benadryl or any other over-the-counter medication. The combination of any of these along with a prescription drug can produce serious side effects or even an overdose. Also, if you have seen a specialist for any reason and he is prescribing medications, you need to tell your primary care doctor about ALL the medications you are taking.

2. ALL OF YOUR AILMENTS, NOT JUST THE ONES FOR WHICH YOU ARE VISITING THE DOCTOR —You’re not feeling well and you go to the doctor to take care of a self-diagnosed cold. Don’t leave your physician in the dark about other things that are bothering you. For example, it may not be a cold; maybe it’s a sinus infection, or an allergy, or even pneumonia. Make a list of your complaints in advance, and tell him or her everything; it will help your doctor evaluate your condition properly.

3. SLEEP HABITS —If you are having trouble sleeping, don’t just shrug it off. Tell your doctor. There could be any number of reasons you are not sleeping well, including ingesting too much caffeine, the onset of menopause in women, stress in your job, or other factors. People need adequate sleep to function properly.

4. DEPRESSED? —Don’t try to be the doctor; be the patient and tell the doctor if you are feeling blue. Depression is a serious disease and a lot of patients hesitate to tell their physician because they think it is embarrassing, or the problem will go away by itself. Depression is too dangerous to keep a secret. Let the doctor make the right decision for you.

5. YOUR SEXUAL HABITS —Have you and your spouse stopped having sexual relations? Are you using the right protection to avoid serious illness? Is your partner having difficulty with getting or keeping an erection? Has your wife lost interest in sex? It may be an uncomfortable topic, but your primary care physician needs to know what you are “up to” in order to help you prevent disease or treat one. Sex education, as well as prescription drugs, can make your sex life vital and safe again.

6. WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THE OFFICE? —If you are not happy at your job or if there is a problem at work, it might be a good idea to tell the doctor about it. As a matter of fact, stress in any area of your life can cause symptoms that mimic many diseases. Tell your physician what pressures you may be under.

7. HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR SPOUSE, LOVER, or CHILDREN? —Is there something going on in your personal life that is driving you crazy? Is there a situation with your child that doesn’t seem right? Are you really anxious about your spouse’s lack of interest? Tell the doctor. The more he knows, the healthier you can be.

8. WHAT IS YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION? —Financial pressures can contribute to some of your symptoms or may lead to arguments with your significant other. It is important to tell the doctor everything about you.

9. WHY AM I ALWAYS TIRED? —This is a very important topic. It could be stress, lack of sleep, too many snacks, or a serious illness. Fatigue is a symptom, and the doctor may need more information to get to the heart of the matter.

10. DO YOU HAVE A HOBBY? —What are you doing in your free time that may be affecting your health? Could that knee pain be too much golf? Could that gym exercise be hurting your feet? Can reading in bed be killing your back? All of these activities could lead to a problem. Tell the doctor your habits.

“MDVIP primary care physicians,” Dr. Kaminetsky says, “provide each and every patient with an executive-style annual physical and a wellness plan. Our doctors also spend more time with a patient, thoroughly asking questions and looking for the best avenue to take for their patient’s individual care.” Dr. Kaminetsky also advises, “Patients must take responsibility for their health. That means making a list of questions for the doctor, telling the doctor all that ails them, and feeling comfortable enough to talk freely. I think it is equally important for the doctor to ask patients lots of questions and give them a thorough examination, as well as make them feel comfortable about asking questions in return and discussing what is bothering them. There needs to be a real bond, a relationship between patient and doctor.”

Dr. Kaminetsky, who has more than 20 years of experience as a primary care physician, explains that you need to be aware of when and where you get a symptom. Here are two examples of why it is so important to discuss everything with your physician:

  • A patient, knowing Dr. Kaminetsky’s insistence on discussing all symptoms, told him that he was experiencing a persistent cough. But it was unusual in that he only had the cough when he was on the treadmill. While discussing it with the patient and delving into the nature of the cough, Dr. Kaminetsky diagnosed it as an atypical presentation of heart disease — what is called an anginal equivalent. The patient was experiencing the symptoms of coronary artery disease and a potential imminent heart attack.
  • Another patient of Dr. Kaminetsky told him he was experiencing subtle and occasional difficulty in swallowing. The patient thought it was so minor and inconsequential that he didn’t want to waste the doctor’s time mentioning it. But knowing that the doctor expected the patient to tell him everything that was going on, he told him about his symptoms. Dr. Kaminetsky diagnosed it as an early but curable esophageal cancer.

In conclusion, Dr. Kaminetsky sums up: “Your doctor is a detective. He or she gathers all the information there is to know about you and comes up with a diagnosis. Only then, when the diagnosis is certain, can an effective treatment plan be put into place.”

About Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, FACP

Dr. Bernard Kaminetsky is Medical Director of MDVIP, Inc. He has been a primary care physician in private practice for over 23 years providing comprehensive care to his patients and utilizing the newest information technologies to promote wellness. He earned his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical student honor society, and completed his residency at Bellevue-New York University. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Nephrology. He was also Assistant Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine. He is a frequent media guest.

About MDVIP, Inc.

MDVIP, Inc. is a privately-held firm founded in 2000 and headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. It is a national network of primary care physicians who practice proactive, preventive, and personalized healthcare. They do more than just detect and treat disease. With prevention as the cornerstone of its program, MDVIP has proven that its carefully chosen affiliated physicians provide exceptional care and achieve exceptional outcomes. These outcomes include lower hospitalization rates which yield significant cost savings to patients, employers and the healthcare system. For more information, go to Dr. Kaminetsky is available for interviews as well as local MDVIP primary care physicians.

Nancy Udell, 561-310-5455