doctor-advice
Ericka McConnell
The doc-patient relationship can be weird. Your doctor sees you at your most vulnerable (two words: paper gown) and is privy to your most intimate info (the number of sexual partners you've had, the precise location of that suspicious mole).

But while you're an open book, your doc isn't—and that's a big mistake. You're left wondering what he's thinking when he raises an eyebrow or murmurs a cryptic "hmmm." Well, wonder no more. We asked top docs to spill the beans on how you can get the best possible care.

Don't think you've got every ailment out there
"A patient will say to me, 'I saw that pill for toenail fungus—I want that pill.' And I'll say, 'But you don't have toenail fungus.' Then they say, 'My toenails look just like the toenails in the picture!' Medicine is not like buying a new shirt because the new color is Concord purple and you want to have a purple shirt, too. I tell people, 'Be glad you don't have toenail fungus!'" —Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, president of Dermatology Consulting Services in High Point, North Carolina

Just spill it
"Every doctor has those 'By the way, doc' patients. They're the ones who, when I'm getting ready to leave the room, say something like, 'By the way, doc, I've been having burning when I'm urinating.' It's an important issue, but they wait until I'm on my way out to mention it. Tell me something like that right away." —Raul J. Seballos, MD, vice chairman of preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic

Forget what you saw on TV
"I hear a lot of, 'I want this test. I saw it on TV. ' You should get the test you need, but it may not be what you saw on television. Just because a TV personality and her best friend had CT scans of the heart doesn't mean you need one." —Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the Women's Heart Center at the New York University Langone Medical Center and author of Dr. Nieca Goldberg's Complete Guide to Women's Health

Don't worry about your hairy legs
"I don't care if you haven't shaved, OK? Please do not apologize for the state of your toenails, your legs, or anything else. I am so not looking." —Katharine O'Connell White, MD, MPH, OB-GYN at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts



Be honest about how much (or how little!) you work out
"I sometimes ask patients: 'Are you physically active?' and they say to me, 'Yes, I'm really active.' Then they talk about how they drive their kids here and drive them there and pick them up. Being busy is not the same thing as being physically active. You have to actually move your body. With exercise, more is better, but anything is better than nothing. The minimum level of physical activity needed in order to actually see real health improvements is 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, every day." —Sharonne N. Hayes, MD, director of the Women's Heart Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

Don't think of the spa as a medical facility
"I see a lot of intelligent people who have gone to spas to get fillers, or they get them in a friend's living room. It shocks me. These are medical procedures that should be done in a medical facility. There's a huge difference in terms of the sterility and the guidelines followed, and a lot of patients don't realize that." —Marta I. Rendon, MD, medical director and founder of the Dermatology and Aesthetic Center in Boca Raton, Florida

Get a second opinion—but not from your mom
"Please don't shop around for a second or third or fourth opinion until you hear the answer you want. I've had patients call and ask for my advice. Then they call back to say they talked to two or three other people, who may or may not be doctors, and those people said something else. We don't treat by consensus. What to do about your discharge or some other problem isn't a consensus decision. You're more than welcome to go somewhere to get a second opinion from a doctor, but people will say, 'Well, my mother said this.' That's great, but is your mom a nurse or a doctor?" —Katharine O'Connell White, MD, MPH

Don't shop for skin-care advice at the mall
" I know a lot of people who will spend $300 on skin-care products at Sephora, but they aren't willing to spend $30 in my office. I wish I could tell all of them: Don't take your skin-care advice from the 16-year-old behind the makeup counter at the mall—she's 16! Talk to your doctor." —Carolyn Jacob, MD, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology

Know the facts
"I'm always so surprised that the average woman thinks contraceptive pills routinely cause cancer, strokes, heart attacks, or blood clots, for instance. The noncontraceptive health benefits of the Pill—such as uterine and ovarian cancer protection, acne prevention, less PMS and menstrual cramps, fewer ovarian cysts—far outweigh the risks for most women." —Suzanne Trupin, OB-GYN in private practice with Women's Health Practice in Champaign, Illinois, and clinical professor of OB-GYN at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Ask yourself: Is this a real emergency?
"I've been paged for a yeast infection at 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening. We've all had them. And, yes, they're miserable. But don't page the doctor at home in the evening about a yeast infection when you can call the office 12 hours later. On the flip side, if you are having a gyno emergency, I really do want you to call me. A real emergency would be heavy bleeding (filling more than one pad or tampon in an hour), severe pelvic pain that hasn't gotten any better with over-the-counter pain medication, and—if you've recently had surgery—any fever or concerns about what your surgical incision looks like." —Katharine O'Connell White, MD, MPH
Last updated: Nov 20, 2009