Look: every single person — at some point — has some kind of medical ailment that makes them a little embarrassed. That’s just a part of life! It’s kind of crazy, if you think about it: all of us have bodies, and all of those bodies go through different ups and downs when it comes to health; yet, for some reason, we still get that twinge of shame when we get a rash, infection, or a cold sore. What gives, right?
In spite of knowing this, it can still be intimidating to verbalize something so personal to your doctor. Even though it feels a little scary, it’s 100 percent worth it. We spoke with Dr. Hadley King, MD, board certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, who shared some information on what it’s really like when you tell a doctor something “mortifying.” Just remember the following five points!
Why You Can Talk to Your Doctor Without Feeling Embarrassed
They’ve Seen Everything
Whether it was in medical school, during their residencies, or over the course of their careers — across hospitals and private practices (and even in their personal lives!) — doctors have seen everything. “We really have seen it all — that's what the eight-plus years of training are for!” says Dr. King. “We treat all sorts of patients for all sorts of problems. What we are thinking about is what you have, how to explain it, and what we can do to make it better. We are here to help, not to judge.”
What You’re Experiencing Is More Common Than You’d Think
While you might feel like the only person in the universe with a wart, urinary tract infection, or cold sore, you’re far from it. Get this: 90 percent of the population tests positive for the virus that causes cold sores. NINETY PERCENT! Think of 10 people you know: nine of them carry the cold sore virus.
Fortunately, you can find fast, accessible relief for cold sores almost anywhere. With Abreva, you can get rid of a cold sore in two and a half days when used at the first sign1.
You may think that a minor cough, skin irritation, or bump is nothing to worry about, but your doctor has a decade of schooling and tons of experience that may lead them to another conclusion. Even if it is something minor and healable, like a cold sore, you’ll still want to know the best course of action. Is this a one-time nuisance that you can treat with something at the pharmacy? Or is there an underlying condition to address?
It’s Not Personal
Doctors care about their patients, but their treatment is clinical — they treat their evaluations and diagnoses the same way. What that means is, there’s no judgment passed. “Judgment doesn't even come in to the equation; our minds are busy figuring out what it is and how we can help,” says Dr. King. “There are no stereotypes that hold up behind the closed door in a doctor's office. Judgments and stigmas would be such a handicap to making the correct diagnosis.”
“Doctor-patient confidentiality really is sacred,” says Dr. King. “It is a privilege and an honor to be trusted as a physician, and we would never betray this trust.” The physician-patient privilege is a legal matter, which means your doctor is bound by the law to protect your privacy. So if all the above didn’t convince you that it’s completely OK (and encouraged) to tell your doctor, remember that your health issues are completely private and protected.
1Median healing time of 4.1 days. 25% of users healed in 2 1/2 days.