Americans tend to put off or avoid going to the doctor altogether when it comes to preventative appointments and screenings. Forbes put the number of American adults skipping doctor visits at 44%. According to the article, the reason most people avoid visiting their doctor is the high cost of healthcare, but there are other explanations; fear of going to the doctor (latrophobia, a surprisingly common fear), or worry about a negative diagnosis may deter a visit to the doctor.
Avoiding particular doctor appointments may have dangerous health consequences. Preventative healthcare in the form of annual checkups is intended to catch health issues before they get serious and cause expensive, dangerous complications.
For example, an annual or biannual dental visit/cleaning is a good time for your dentist to review the state of your teeth and your or your children’s oral hygiene habits. Not going to the dentist could lead to cavities. An untreated cavity could lead to a tooth abscess. An untreated abscess could cause sepsis — an infection that could spread and become life-threatening.
It’s all too easy to focus on your children’s health needs and forget about your own. Don’t neglect your health by avoiding or putting off routine visits to the doctor. Everyone in the family should be a health priority, regardless of whether it’s a special needs child, young adult, or a parent. Here are six doctors you and your loved ones should see regularly:
1. Primary Care Provider
The rule of thumb for visiting a PCP or pediatrician has been “per-year” for a routine medical check-up. However, there is limited evidence supporting this as a requirement even for asymptomatic adults — those without a chronic condition or other regular treatment needs. The American College of Physicians found that, although healthy adults may not strictly need an annual physical, the majority of physicians agree that annual wellness exams are valuable for building a relationship between doctor and patient, and create valuable opportunities for health screening, discussing health concerns, and improving overall ability to detect potential health issues.
For older adults, individuals taking prescription medicine, and anyone managing or at heightened risk for a chronic condition or other illness, the benefits of annual screenings are less ambiguous, and often recommended by physicians.
The annual or periodic health exam includes:
- A review of your health history;
- A physical exam;
- Possible tests (lipid panels, glucose level measurement, et al);
- A conversation about any health concerns.
Your dental health is linked to your overall health and should not be overlooked. A report from the American Dental Association (ADA) reveals a link between periodontal disease and diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The ADA points to evidence suggesting that “oral bacteria may be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages, and stroke.”
As for children, their dental health is crucial as their teeth and bones develop. Everyone should visit the dentist twice per year. The visits generally center around a routine dental cleaning, but the dentist will also perform an exam to ensure there are no new cavities or other types of issues such as sleep apnea developing.
A dentist may recommend more frequent dental visits to manage conditions such as gum disease, or may refer you or your child to a specialist or orthodontist for braces or Invisalign to help with mouth or tooth alignment issues.
Society needs to pay special attention to their eyesight more than ever. The explosive growth of smartphones means children and adults spend extended amounts of time reading small print on a screen. Too much screentime spent on a smartphone or a tablet can damage your eyesight. Research has uncovered that the blue light your smart devices emit may lead to macular degeneration and vision loss. Even if you believe your vision is perfect, a regular optometric check-up is critical.
You should visit the optometrist every one or two years to assess your eye health and monitor for any vision changes, especially if you spend lots of time on your smartphone devices. If you wear eyeglasses or contacts, check-ups should be more frequent. An annual visit is essential to evaluate whether your eyeglass or contact prescription needs to be adjusted.
Many people associate a visit to treat acne or get botox when they hear about dermatologists. But a dermatologist plays a highly important role in detecting skin cancer. Interestingly enough, skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States, yet dermatologist visits aren’t as prevalent.
If you don’t spend a lot of time outdoors you may not need a periodic dermatologist check-up. But fair-skinned people, those who have a personal or family history with skin cancer, anyone who may have immunity issues, or active people that work or spend time outdoors should get a regular examination to look for any unusual moles or spots which could be signs of early skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women. Besides breast cancer, other cancers that affect American women include:
- Endometrial cancer;
- Cervical cancer;
- Ovarian cancer.
All four types of cancers can be caught early during annual gynecological visits. An annual visit will include a physical exam to review overall reproductive health and a discussion about family planning and/or birth control. Other services performed during the appointment include a breast exam, potential referral for a mammogram, pelvic exam, or Pap smear. Women with a family history of reproductive problems or any of the cancers mentioned should visit the gynecologist more frequently.
6. Mental Health Professional
In this day and age, there is a slew of societal pressures and issues that may cause an elevated level of stress. Stress can lead to physical ailments and disease, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cardiovascular disease. Although it’s not necessary to periodically visit a mental health professional if you or a family member is struggling with conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, or depression you should prioritize your mental health and visit a professional.
A single visit may provide you with answers or the relief you’re looking for if you’re suffering from stress-related issues, anxiety, or depression. You may come to an agreement with the mental health practitioner that a more frequent therapy plan could be beneficial.
There’s a well-known saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ensuring that you, your spouse, and kids all have regular, preventive medicine visits could keep your family healthier.