As an adult, you probably choose to make and attend most of your medical appointments alone. Whether you’re having an annual checkup, routine follow-up, or an appointment with a specialist, this guide will help you understand when to see a doctor and how to get the most out of your visit.
When to Visit a Doctor
With busy schedules, it can often be tempting to put off a doctor’s appointment. However, getting annual checkups and investigating any symptoms early could enable you to be treated more quickly and more effectively. A typical checkup for a young adult usually includes weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol tests, and some patients might also have a blood glucose test. Most women need to have gynecological screenings every three to five years as well. In addition to regular screenings, you should always make a doctor’s appointment whenever you notice symptoms such as rectal bleeding, changes to a mole, abdominal pain, or a cough that lasts longer than three weeks.
Finding a Specialist
Many patients see a general practitioner or a nurse practitioner for annual checkups, routine screenings, and minor medical issues. Individuals with complex symptoms or chronic conditions will normally need care from a specialist. Doctors have different specializations, and finding a specialist who understands your symptoms and works with you to plan treatment can make all the difference in your health. If you have seen a general practitioner and your symptoms persist, you may want to seek the opinion of one or more specialists. Remember that misdiagnoses do happen, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of seeking a second opinion. Always take a list of current medications and any scans, x-rays, or lab results to appointments with specialists, and try to write down a list of symptoms and previous treatments to discuss at the visit.
Asking questions at any type of doctor’s appointment can help you understand more about your symptoms, necessary exams, and potential treatment options. Some patients find that asking questions provides them with a greater sense of control and helps them feel more relaxed at the visit. If you’re going for a routine checkup, you might want to ask questions about which tests you’ll need and if you need to do anything to prepare in advance of the procedure. For appointments with a specialist, you could ask about the benefits and potential side effects of a particular treatment, and you might also want to ask about alternative treatments.
Remember, your healthcare provider is there to help you. Always ask about anything that you don’t understand, and seek a second (or third) opinion about any worrying or persistent symptoms. With these tips, you can be confident about going to the doctor on your own.