By Michael Warren
I agree doctors are strange people. They ask many unusual things of their patients and, at times, it is difficult to see the relevance. Often, however, essential information necessary for the doctor to diagnose and treat your illness appears unwarranted to the layperson.
Why, for example, would the doctor want to look into your eyes if he or she suspects you have hypertension? What do eyes have to do with elevated blood pressure? Plenty!
Inside your eye are many blood vessels that become easily visible with the help of a special instrument. The blood vessels are affected by hypertension, and physicians can study them to learn more about your problem.
And why would the doctor examine your neck if he or she were worried about kidney stones? It’s possible to develop kidney stones because of a tumor in one of your parathyroid glands that are located in the neck.
There are many examples of seemingly unrelated facts that together make up a disease, and the doctor, like any good detective, must gather the facts to make a diagnosis.
However, it is in your best interest to ask questions. If you don’t understand what is happening, or why examinations or tests are necessary, ask your doctor to explain the relationship. It is essential that you understand.
One of the greatest areas of confusion occurs when the physician discusses seemingly unrelated sexual matters that the patient thinks are inappropriate. What could the timing of your menstrual periods have to do with your headaches? Why does the pattern of your sexual habits relate to the burning sensation you experience when urinating?
Yet, these are relevant questions, and the answers can go a long way in helping your doctor to help you.
Sometimes the questions are detailed and delicate. If you are unsure of the relationship between the questions and your problem, then ask. Satisfy yourself that the information is necessary before answering the question.
It is important to answer your doctor’s questions honestly. Don’t exaggerate some details while omitting others that seem embarrassing. Hopefully, you and your doctor have a relationship that allows frank and open discussions. Accurate answers are essential, and you can rest assured your doctor will keep the information confidential. It’s difficult to make a correct diagnosis. You can help by providing us with the facts.
Dr. Michael M. Warren is Ashbel Smith Professor of Surgery in the division of urology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.