Doctor Avoidance: 5 Reasons Why It's Not a Good Idea
Medically reviewed on Apr 24, 2017 by C. Fookes, BPharm.
1. Delay In the Diagnosis Of A Major Disease
We have all heard about seemingly healthy people who suddenly have a major heart attack or get diagnosed with a stage four cancer. These stories are common, and are the reason doctors screen for a number of medical conditions including heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Many potentially fatal diseases lack symptoms, at least initially. Others have such vague symptoms, such as a headache, diarrhea or fatigue, that it is easy to mistake them for something else, such as the cold or flu or food poisoning.
Screening aims to identify diseases at an early stage, when they are most treatable. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can easily go unnoticed for many years; all the while irreversible damage is being done. Screening is also recommended for detecting certain types of cancer, such as those of the breast, bowel, cervix and lung.
Follow the links for recommended screenings, categorized by age:
2. Allowing A Medical Condition Time To Worsen
So you've noticed a pimple-like sore on your chest that starts to bleed even after the slightest scratch. Or perhaps you now go to the toilet every few hours when you always went like clockwork once-a-day. Maybe you get short of breath climbing a few stairs or a bit of a niggle in your chest every now and then.
While the “wait and see approach” may seem like a good idea; and in some cases, is a good idea; knowing when to call it quits and visit the doctor instead is vital. Blemishes that haven't showed any signs of clearing in a week need to be checked. All changes in bowel habits that persist or require frequent bathroom excursions need reasonably immediate further investigation. Unexplained chest pain could signal a narrowing of the arteries, shortness of breath a problem with the heart or lungs and severe sore throats may develop into rheumatic fever.
Make it a rule that if a single, new, symptom doesn't go away within seven days, make an appointment to see your doctor. Make the appointment earlier if it is affecting your day-to-day activities, or if it is accompanied by another symptom, such as nausea or tiredness.
3. A Self-Diagnosis Is Not Always The Right Diagnosis
Think you're pretty handy with search engines? Can sort out what's wrong with yourself and even your friend or your dog with a few keyboard strokes? The internet is a wealth of medical information with symptom-checker sites and journals just a mere rattle of the keyboard away. But as any trained doctor will tell you, this information overload can be hazardous to your health.
Bottom-line is, it is not easy to diagnose certain diseases. In fact, many conditions have overlapping symptoms that make it impossible to distinguish between one condition or another without further investigations, such as blood tests or scans. Even the same skin condition, for example, can have multiple presentations and look different from one person to the next.
There is also a truckload of inaccurate information currently on the net. So as well as sifting through mountains of relevant and not-so-relevant research, you also have to decide what is wrong and what is right!
Do yourself a favor and get whatever is ailing you checked by your doctor or at the least, call in and talk with your pharmacist.
4. Missing Out On Preventive Vaccinations Or Lifestyle Advice
It's easy just to keep on ticking on. But even if you are healthy, you are still getting older, and with that comes increased susceptibility to some diseases, and a reduction in the benefit of past immunizations.
Several vaccinations such as tetanus and pertussis require booster shots at regular intervals. The flu vaccination requires a yearly shot to account for changing viruses and waning immunity. The shingles vaccination is given after the age of sixty.
Seeing your doctor at regular intervals also allows for regular discussions about your lifestyle to take place. Significant improvements to your health can be made by improving your diet, exercise regimen, limiting your alcohol intake, and quitting smoking. It is also a good time to discuss aspects of your mental health, and see how well you are coping with life on a day-to-day basis.
5. Be More Than A Number - Give Your Doctor A Chance To Know The Real You
Doctors see dozens of people every day. If you switch doctors regularly - or only see one when something is seriously wrong - it doesn't allow them time to build a rapport or to understand your day-to-day state of health.
Seeing your doctor in less stressful, non-emergency situations allows time for discussions about your previous medical or family history or any known inherited conditions you may have. It also means subtle complaints that are new to both you and your doctor are not easily dismissed. See your doctor at least once a year, more if you have a chronic medical condition or several bouts of sickness. You owe it to your family, your loved ones and yourself.