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Topics of tension: Additional things you should discuss with your doctor

There are many subjects you might feel uncomfortable talking about — but if any of the following issues are affecting you, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor to safeguard your health, says Mona Mehrotra, MD, an internal medicine specialist and pediatrician at Rush University Medical Center.

  • Advance directives. These legally binding documents specify your wishes for medical care if you’re unable to speak for yourself. It can be difficult to think about being in that position. But creating advance directives and discussing your wishes with your doctor helps ensure those wishes will be followed by caregivers and family members.
  • Alcohol use. Alcohol abuse has been linked to numerous health problems and accidents. Two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women is considered moderate alcohol use. If you find yourself regularly drinking more than that, talk to your doctor about whether you might have an addiction. Your discussion will be confidential.
  • Domestic violence. Domestic violence can include physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and it isn’t limited to spousal relationships or male versus female violence. Men can be victims too.

    Often, people who are being abused think it’s their fault and they may be embarrassed to talk about it. What’s more, they may worry about what will happen if their abuser finds out that other people know about their situation.

    What is important to realize is that domestic abuse has been linked to many short and long-term health problems, and to emotional and mental health issues. If you’re being abused, you need help.

    Your doctor can be a source of that help, directing you to appropriate resources such as shelters, legal support and community services.

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED). ED is often caused by treatable health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also result as a side effect of certain medications.

    When a doctor knows you’re having a problem with ED, he or she can look into what might be causing the problem and possibly help you eliminate it.

  • School problems with children and adolescents. Many different problems can occur at school that you don’t always notice at home. For instance, a child who has a hard time paying attention, talks too much or day dreams, could have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Proper treatment might improve school performance.

    Or, a child who seems to have learning disabilities may really have trouble seeing, and should get a vision exam.

    Don’t be embarrassed to discuss issues such as these with your child’s doctor. The doctor can investigate any problems and can even help with issues that might be affecting your child at school, such as bullying and peer pressure.

  • Use of alternative medicine. Many people use alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies, without their doctors’ knowledge. That’s unwise.

    “It’s important that patients tell us about any herbal medicines they’re taking because we need to make sure they’re not interacting with any of the medicines we’ve prescribed,” says Mehrotra. “That may be the cause of some of their problems.”

  • Weight. Being overweight is a problem too serious to ignore. If your previous weight-loss attempts have been unsuccessful, your doctor may have new options that are worth considering.

    If your child is overweight, refusing to talk about it with the child and his or her doctor because you worry it may make the child insecure may only leave the child with health problems now or down the road. There are changes that you can make that will help children lose weight and feel good about themselves, and your doctor can show you how to make them, says Mehrotra.

To see if you are at a healthy weight, visit us online at to calculate your body mass index — a measurement of your weight in relation to height.

Wait: There's more

These aren't the only subjects you need to discuss openly and honestly with your doctor. For more health issues that Mehrotra says are important to talk about, check out the Fall issue of Discover Rush.


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