While you've probably heard of "getting a second opinion," it's likely that you don't think much about what doctors disagree on when it comes to your everyday health. It may be intimidating to think about
what to do when doctors disagree, but it generally boils down to understanding the how and why, and going with what feels best for you personally. The medical field can be surprisingly subjective.
A lot of these debates boil down to how case-by-case things are in the medical field. "Diagnosis is more often than not a judgment call based on what symptoms the doctor can piece together,"
Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "This means that different doctors can sometimes give different advice to patients, depending on how they put together the ‘puzzle’ that is your symptoms." Making sure you're being your own best possible self-advocate may help.
Other debates stem from more serious medical disagreements, whether based on research or simply difference of opinion. Understanding where doctors disagree, and why, can help you be more prepared to make informed decisions about your body. Just because it comes from a place of authority, doesn't mean that all advice is worth taking. Luckily, doctors are relatively willing to open up about where they may not all be on the same page.
Here are seven shocking pieces of health advice even doctors can't agree on.
Antibiotics are unfortunately
over-prescribed. And doctors who are worried about potential antibiotic resistance may disagree with others who are quicker to prescribe this kind of medicine.
"The CDC recommends that most bouts of minor cold be
treated without antibiotics to prevent resistance," licensed and board certified pharmacist Jason Reed, PharmD, tells Bustle. "Yet many doctors will give these patients antibiotics, while others will not based on CDC guidance." In general, it's best to not take antibiotics too often, even if your doctor is reluctantly willing to prescribe them, but if you have questions getting a second opinion can help. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
According to Dr. Reed, physicians who are visited more often by pharmaceutical representatives may be more likely to prescribe drugs to their patients — even if they're not quite necessary. With cholesterol issues, this comes up for debate.
"Another area where doctors disagree is with cholesterol management," Dr. Reed says. "Very strict guidelines are being pushed that say
LDL cholesterol must be below 100. However, if the patient has no other risk factors for cardiac disease, pushing a high dose statin drug on them that can cause significant muscle pain is not a good option." If you're unsure, a second opinion or discussion of non-pharmaceutical therapy may be a good first step. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
The details of blood tests can be confusing to patients, but doctors don't always agree on which are even relevant in the first place. For patients dealing with
thyroid problems, doctors may not all be looking at the same data.
"The first thing I see is doctors who will disagree on patients who require thyroid replacement therapy," Dr. Reed says. Differing tests and numbers are interpreted differently by primary care physicians versus specialists, Dr. Reed says, so if you're worried about a thyroid issue, you may want to get the opinion of more than one doctor.
While some children still get tonsillectomies, there's a pretty big schism within the medical field about
adult tonsillectomies that still persists.
"There is a disagreement among doctors when it comes to removing tonsils," Backe says. "In fact, the
number of tonsillectomies has declined significantly since the 1970s. This is largely due to the fear of infection post-removal. If you have a tonsil infection, doctors may disagree on whether or not removal is a necessary risk." If you have serious tonsil issues, it's important you keep track of them and have open discussions with your doctor about potential treatment options.
Not all disagreements between doctors come down to major medication or surgery disputes. Some disagreements that doctors have are actually more about what you do in your daily life.
"One topic that many foot doctors tend to disagree on is whether walking, running, and working out barefoot (or wearing minimalistic shoes) is good for foot health," board-certified podiatrist
Dr. Velimir Petkov, tells Bustle. "Some insist that it's natural, helps you get in tune and achieve optimal results, so they recommend it. Others are adamant that our feet need proper cushioning and support, especially when engaging in activities that have a repetitive impact on them." If you're a runner or do any major outdoor activities, then you may want to do your research before deciding to go barefoot.
There is actually medicine, like
tamiflu and theraflu, that can help you if you come down with the flu. For some doctors, however, prescribing these is controversial.
"Some docs feel for example anti-viral medications [like] tamiflu for the flu are not indicated," family and emergency medical doctor,
Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, tells Bustle. "They feel the human body should heal itself and not take medications that may cause more harm." The flu, however, is a very serious disease that kills thousands every year, Dr. Nesheiwat points out, so treating it is very important. Always go to your doctor if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Tiko Aramyan/Shutterstock Whether or not you need vitamins is quite controversial in the medical world. They can be seen as a miracle fix, or totally irrelevant to someone's health if they have a balanced diet. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
"I would say that doctors often disagree on the subject of vitamins," Arielle Levitan, M.D., co-founder
Vous Vitamin LLC, tells Bustle. According to Dr. Levtian, some doctors say no vitamins are necessary, some — especially naturopathic doctors — overload their patients on supplements, and others prescribe multivitamins for the sake of simplicity. The middle ground, taking specific supplements suited for your personal health, suggested by a doctor, is probably the best approach.
Whatever your physical needs may be, making sure you understand your own personal health is a vital part of the medical process. There is no reason not to trust your doctor, but understanding that even the medical field has discrepancies can help you stay aware, and be your own best advocate.