Looking Out for Your Spouse’s Health

In life, your spouse is your number one, your partner in crime, the person who has your back. Make no mistake, there's no exception when it comes to each other's health.

Signs of Potential Health Concerns

It can be difficult to see yourself as clearly as your spouse does, so it's no wonder that he or she is often the one to first notice signs of potential health concerns.

Here are a few things your spouse's extra set of eyes might catch before you do.

Alarming Sleep Habits

Your sweetheart is far more likely to notice symptoms of sleep apnea than you are. Lying next to you at night gives your spouse a front-row seat to observe your snoring, gasps for breath, or even momentary lapses in breathing, which are the three most common signs of sleep apnea.

Another clue? You may notice your partner complaining of perpetual tiredness, to the point that he or she could fall asleep any time of day. You might chalk it up to too much work or not enough sleep, but a sleep disorder may be to blame.

A Change in Mood

According to family medicine physician Brian Jones, MD, on the medical staff at Methodist Family Health Center - Cedar Hill East, depression is probably underdiagnosed and undertreated because symptoms can be nonspecific. However, there are clues to look for.

Wives tend to notice that their husbands are increasingly more irritable - the most common outward symptom in men - whereas husbands might note their wives crying more frequently.

You may also notice a decrease in your spouse's libido, poor sleeping, or a general loss of enjoyment in their favorite activities.

Spots and Bumps on the Skin

Some spots on the body are hard to reach and others are even harder to see, like the upper back or the back of the thigh or neck. But your spouse has a great view and can more easily notice bumps, spots, moles, or sores that could indicate various medical conditions.

Take the time to check each other regularly, and keep Dr. Jones' ABCDE list in mind when you do:

  • Asymmetry: Is the growth asymmetrical?
  • Border: Does the growth have a ragged border?
  • Color: Are there multiple colors, or is the growth dark in color?
  • Diameter: Is the growth larger than a pencil eraser?
  • Evolution: Has the spot changed over time?

The ABCDE tip is a starting point in evaluating skin lesions as signs of skin cancer, but not all skin cancers will appear this way. If you have concerns, it's always best to see your doctor for a professional opinion, Dr. Jones counsels.

For more common skin conditions, like rashes, sores, and bug bites, Dr. Jones encourages seeking a professional's opinion if there is no improvement in three to seven days. During that time, avoid using household or over-the-counter treatments for the skin condition if you are not sure what is causing it. It could change the appearance of the condition and make it harder for the doctor to diagnose.

Unbalanced Blood Sugars

Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, but a shocking almost 30 percent of them don't know it! If you're picking up on more frequent urination, complaints of blurry vision, or excessive thirst from your spouse, he or she could have prediabetes or have type 2 diabetes already.

Blood Pressure Problems

High blood pressure is unfortunately very hit and miss as far as being symptomatic, Dr. Jones explains. How can you tell if your spouse is suffering from high blood pressure? You may not be able to, but the two most common signs will be fatigue and headaches.

These are two common maladies, so don't jump to the conclusion that your loved one has high blood pressure. But if you've heard these complaints, it might be worth it to get their blood pressure numbers checked.

Poor Posture and Pain

Although commonly associated with white women over the age of 50, osteoporosis can strike men and other ethnicities at any age. It's often called a silent disease because it is symptomless as it progresses, but take note if your partner starts mentioning back pain or if you've noticed a hunched posture.

Now, the hard part...

Identifying a spouse’s health issues is the easy part - just keep your eyes and ears open. But talking to your husband or wife about seeing a doctor for those issues is another story altogether. Fortunately, we've got some tips for you.

How to Have 'The Talk' with Your Spouse About Seeing a Doctor

Brian Jones, MD, with Methodist Family Health Center - Cedar Hill East has seen hundreds of patients - some who were more than willing to make the appointment and others who had to be coaxed, bribed, or practically dragged into the physician's office. However they may have ended up there, the important thing was that they did.

Bribery and force not your style? How about creative, concerned communication? Below, Dr. Jones helps dissect the do's and don'ts of encouraging your spouse to see a health professional.

Be Direct

Because you probably know your spouse better than anyone else, it's easy to make assumptions about how he or she would react if you brought up making a doctor appointment for them. But you know what they say about making assumptions, right? The direct approach can actually be quite successful.

If you have never simply come out and told your loved one that you are concerned about his or her health, you might be surprised by the reaction you'll get. Your spouse might just agree to letting you make that appointment on his or her behalf.

Dr. Jones encourages this approach and agrees that starting with telling your spouse how truly worried you are is the best entry to the conversation.

Chitchat fun fact: Men prefer to have conversations side-by-side, so consider having the conversation in the car or while taking a walk.

Lead the Way

Make it as easy as possible for your spouse to say yes. Find the doctor - most people prefer physicians of their same gender - and schedule an appointment for a time you know will be convenient. If your husband wants you to keep him company, go to the appointment with him.

Buddy system benefit: Having your husband or wife present at a doctor appointment is often helpful, Dr. Jones says, since he or she is most likely the one who noticed your signs and symptoms in the first place.

Make It Your Spouse's Idea

If your spouse isn't the type who would relish your taking the reins and making all the arrangements for him, then there is always the option to try and make it his idea.

This strategy - most successful for those with the gift of gab - often unfolds with posing a question that leads your loved one to suggest the very outcome you were aiming for. For example, "Honey, I've read there are ways to reduce the cost of health insurance if we schedule physicals. What should we do?" When your spouse suggests going to the doctor, it's a win-win for a lot of couples because no one feels cajoled into a decision.

Say Yes to Persistence, No to Nagging

Dr. Jones wholeheartedly believes that spouses must be persistent with expressing their concerns. Just be careful not to nag. Many of his most reluctant patients finally came to see him after their spouses wouldn't let them ignore their health any longer.

Work on being loving and encouraging, and in the case of husbands, appeal to their analytical side. If your hubby tends to be competitive and protective, use that angle by focusing on how much you need him healthy and in your life and that seeing a doctor would allay your fears.

Team Effort

By nature, people are more apt to do something with a partner - seeing the doctor is no exception. If your spouse seems willing but reluctant to make an appointment suggest that you both make appointments and go together. Laying the foundation for a more comfortable doctor-patient experience will make your spouse more likely to go again. Dr. Jones states he has witnessed this countless times.

Surrounded by Fun

Unpleasant tasks are more tolerable when combined with enjoyable activities - no surprise there! Suggest going out to dinner and a movie afterward to lessen your spouse's reluctance. If more fun is needed, try scheduling something fun before and after the appointment to make the doctor's visit seem like a small detour on a fun-filled day. This tactic could make the appointment seem less foreboding since it's just another task in an otherwise feel-good, busy day.

Outside Influence

Has your husband or wife ever rejected one of your suggestions only to jump all over the exact same suggestion when it comes from another person of influence? While this can be super frustrating, use it to your advantage.

Reach out to a trusted person in your loved one's life and recruit him or her to talk to your spouse about seeing a doctor. Remember, don't take it personally if it's successful - it's a win for everybody!

Final Thoughts

Whether you will be tasked with finding a doctor and making the appointment for your spouse or just creatively guiding "the talk," it comes down to one goal: helping your beloved get the medical attention he or she may need.