Six Reasons You Just Might Lie to Your Doctor

Would Any of Them Tempt You to Tell a Fib?

Even the most honest person might be tempted to lie to their doctor.  But why?  As it turns out, there are several reasons.


Pretty Good Vision for a Blind Man

Several years ago I met a man who claimed he’d lost his sight in a recent construction accident.  He said someone was tossing wooden beams into a trailer, and he was hit in the eye.

I didn’t see any evidence of damage.  I performed extra testing, which turned out terrible.  The results indicated he had no vision at all in either eye.

I suspected he faked the results of the test, because he didn’t seem too upset about his new “blindness.”  And, he walked down the hall with no problems.  He had even driven himself to the office!

And then came the kicker.  He wanted me to prescribe pain medication to help him with his new condition.

After a few phone calls to local hospitals and clinics, I discovered he had visited several with the same request.  I politely asked him to leave.

A Different Matter

The man was lying so he could get drugs.  You may never even think of such a thing.  But you might still be tempted to tell a fib to your doctor.

A recent study suggests about 25% of patients lie to their doctors.  And while most patients aren’t after narcotics, many may lie for other reasons.

Here are six reasons people might lie to their doctor:

  • To get something.  The man in the story wanted painkillers, but there are many things people are willing to fib for.  These might include an excuse for missing work, a prescription for antibiotics, or extra contact lenses.  I sometimes see children who claim to see poorly simply because they like the idea of wearing glasses.
  • To keep something.  Often, a patient says their contact lenses are comfortable.  But when I say lens comfort can be improved, they’re interested in new lenses.  Many admit they only say they like their lenses because they’re afraid I might take them away.  I can understand that.  But it’s an irrational fear.
  • To avoid embarrassment.  Many patients are simply embarrassed to admit contacts or medications are out of their budget.  I would rather have a patient be honest about this.  There are often cheaper alternatives, local charity groups, other programs that can help.
  • To avoid reality.  Often, a patient will complain about their eyes.  if I discover early signs of an eye disease, they will then tell me they’re not having any problems.  Although I understand some eye problems can be scary, avoiding the situation will never help.
  • To please the doctor.  Often we simply want to please authority figures.  A friend in law enforcement told me he doubles the answer when he asks a driver how much he had to drink.  And when dentists ask patients how often they floss, they’ll generally consider half the answer as the truth.
  • To avoid confrontation.  When a patient admits they haven’t followed my advice, they’re usually pretty shy about it.  Some admit they’re afraid I’ll shout at them.  I never do, but several people have faced stern doctors and don’t want another unpleasant episode.
  • To save time.  Let’s face it: doctors can miss opportunities in the exam room.  Patients may lie because they don’t feel they have enough time to discuss their health concerns.  I understand sometimes it isn’t easy for patients, so I always ask whether they have any questions.  If your doctor doesn’t usually do that for you, make sure you say you have questions to ask before the end of the exam.

Your doctor wants to help you.  It’s why we’re here.  Trust your doctor enough to be honest. You’ll get better, see better, feel better, and gain some peace of mind.

Question: Can you think of a reason you might lie to your doctor?  Please let me know in the comments below.

The Worst Mistake You Make When You Get an Eye Exam

Your Eye Doctor May Not Even Know You're Doing It

You’ve probably heard a lot of advice about what to do when you get an eye exam.  But is there anything you shouldn’t do?  Absolutely.


Spinning a Tall Tale

When I was in optometry school, I worked in an eye clinic to support myself and gain valuable experience.

One day a woman claimed her glasses lens had cracked, and she was hoping to receive a new one at no charge.  In her opinion, the lens cracked because it was defective.

Another student and I examined the lens.  It was clearly scratched, but not cracked.  I didn’t want to seem confrontational, but the other student had no such reservations.

He told her what he thought, and she got pretty mad.  She yelled at my coworker, insisting the lens was cracked, and demanding a replacement.

We replaced her lens in the name of good customer service.  Still, we suspected she was telling a fib to avoid having to pay.

Always Tell the Truth

Many patients lie to their doctors.  A 2015 study found about a quarter of patients do this for various reasons.  A scratched lens won’t hurt your vision.  But what if you’re misleading your eye doctor about more important matters, such as whether you are using medicated eye drops or how much you smoke?

For example, I may have a patient who has glaucoma.  If their eye pressure suddenly increases, I have to make sure they are using their eye drops.  Many times patients will admit they are not, even if they said they are.  This scenario is fairly common.

But there’s a big difference between a medication that isn’t working and one that isn’t being used.  The former is a much harder problem to solve.  No matter the reason, there is usually a solution to help people get on track.

But your eye doctor can’t help you if you’re not telling the truth.

Here are three reasons not to lie to your eye doctor:

  • It’s your vision.  Put aside fear of embarrassment or of being judged.  Your vision is too precious to lie about.  If you’re doing something you shouldn’t then tell your doctor and ask for help.  If you’re not doing something you should, ask your doctor to help you with ways to get better or more consistent.
  • Your doctor wants to help you.  Yes, doctors may get frustrated or even angry if you haven’t followed their advice.  But they’re only getting upset because they care about you and want you to be well.  It’s why people became a doctors.  I’d rather have a patient tell me the truth so I can adjust treatment.  If a patient lies, I may think they are doing well and they leave without proper care.  This isn’t good for anyone.
  • Lying may affect your treatment.  Many people don’t realize that doctors use treatment protocols.  That means they use information provided by patients to make decisions.  Protocols, rules, and standards of care help guide those decisions.  If you’re not giving your doctor true information, your treatment plan may not work as well.  It may even be harmful.

People may lie to their doctors simply because they aim to please.  And while I am always happy when a patient is following advice, I never want to believe it’s true when it isn’t.

You’re responsible for your own health.  This is especially true in the exam room.  To make the most of your eye exam and your relationship with your trusted eye doctor, make sure you tell the truth.

Question: have you ever felt tempted to lie to a doctor?  Please let me know in the comments below.

You’ll Love This Adorable Baby Blanket

Here's the Story About How It Almost Didn't Get Made

Sometimes we’re blessed with moments of clarity about our careers.  I had one of those moments a few weeks ago.


A Case of Really Poor Vision

This summer I met a patient who was having vision problems.  Sue* wanted an exam because her left eye was uncomfortable.  It turned out to be a corneal disease she didn’t know she had.

She also had cataracts that were so dense glasses would not help.  Finally, I had to tell her that her vision was too poor to drive safely.  In addition to needing cataract surgery and aggressive corneal treatment, now she couldn’t drive.  I could hardly imagine a worse introduction to a new eye doctor.

Fast Forward

Today, Sue is doing much better.  Because her corneal disease was limited to her left eye, she was able to have cataract surgery on her right eye.  She’s recovering beautifully.

Her left eye is also doing much better.  Hopefully she will be able to have cataract surgery in that eye too.

At her last visit to LaFollette Eye Clinic, she showed me a picture of a baby blanket she made (see the photo above).  She finished it just in time for a new baby in her family.

I was amazed, and said as much.  She replied, “I want to thank you.  After surgery, my vision got so much better.  Before I had cataract surgery, I would never have been able to make this blanket.”

What About You?

Are you not doing things because you can’t see well enough to do them?  Sue’s case is extreme, but maybe you’ve had more subtle changes.  Glare at night, fatigue while working, dry eyes, or blurry vision are all great reasons to have an eye exam.  And there are no good reasons to put off something that important.

Here’s what you can learn from Sue:

  • Schedule your eye exam now.  If Sue hadn’t waited until she had symptoms, her corneal disease and cataracts could have been diagnosed and treated at a much earlier stage, before things became urgent.
  • Don’t hope symptoms will go away.  Be safe, not sorry.  I do see a lot of patients whose symptoms are benign.  But that’s better than seeing patients who wait until it’s too late.  It does happen, and it’s never easy.
  • Pay attention.  Even with regular eye care, problems can arise between exams.  Symptoms such as dryness, itching, and blurry vision are easy to spot.  But don’t let more subtle problems slip by.  Mild symptoms such as floaters, a few seconds of blurred or grey vision, and even a brief flash of light in your vision can mean serious eye problems.
  • Use your vision.  This one is my favorite.  Living the visual lifestyle isn’t just about clear vision.  It’s about how you use and enjoy it, both now and for life.  You may not be able to make a baby blanket, but there are plenty of arts, people, and outdoor spaces to see and enjoy.  Why not take the time to do so today?

I’m glad Sue is on her way to better vision and a better tomorrow.  Let her experience inspire you to take care of your own vision and eye health.

Question:  I’m thankful Sue is doing better.  What are you thankful for this week?  Please let me know in the comments below.


*Name changed