Remember to Take Care of Your Health by Scheduling Annual Exams Early

Computer and stethoscope

Visits with your medical team are important for continued well being. (Photo courtesy Canva)

Have you scheduled your health and wellness appointments for the new year? Remember to do so now to ensure you stay healthy and nip any problems or ailments you might face in the bud early before they become a bigger problem. Not sure which doctors to schedule appointments with? Check out the list below.

See your primary care physician at least once a year.

The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t apply to your health. It is important to go for a wellness visit annually to check things like your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol so adjustments can be made to keep you healthy. If levels aren’t maintained, they can easily get out of balance without your even knowing it.

These visits also help you forge a good relationship with your doctor. Michael Fedewa Jr., DO, a board-certified family physician at Duke Primary Care Holly Springs Family Medicine, says,” If we know you when you’re well, we’re going to be ready to provide the best care when you’re sick, and we may be able to prevent some illness together.”

See your ob/gyn at least once a year.

Even if you examine your own breasts every month looking for abnormalities, it is important to see a doctor to make sure you didn’t miss anything. If you don’t really know how to do a self exam, ask your doctor for instruction.

These annual visits are also the time to get your Pap smear to detect medical conditions like HPV and to discuss your mental health, lifestyle habits, and questions you may have about your menstruation, including any discomfort or bleeding you might experience between cycles.

Worried about having a baby or thinking you hear that biological clock ticking away? Talk to the doctor about sex, reproduction, and birth control during your visit. Now’s your chance!

See your dermatologist at least once a year or as often as recommended.

Although there aren’t any official guidelines over how often you should get a skin check, it is a good idea to get one, particularly if melanoma runs in your family. The exam takes approximately 20 minutes, during which you slip into a hospital gown and the dermatologist looks you over from head to toe, checking out any spots, bumps, moles, or discolorations you may have with a dermatoscope, which looks like a combination flashlight and magnifying glass. If the doctor finds anything suspicious, he may do a biopsy, and you will typically get the results back in 7 – 10 days.

It is a good thing to keep in mind that anyone can get skin cancer. But according to the CDC, those that may be at greater risk include those with fair skin, light color hair or eyes, and skin that burns, freckles, or reddens easily in the sun. Also, just because you get a tan doesn’t mean you are immune. Any change in skin color after UV exposure (whether it is a tan or a burn) is a sign of injury, not health.

See your eye doctor at least once every two years (or more often if you have a prescription.)

Nobody wants to lose their vision. But vision isn’t the only thing an eye doctor looks at during your exam. “Eyes are a window to the body,” states Optometrist Justin Asgarpour. Trained eye care professionals can detect everything from poor vision to myopia, glaucoma, diabetes, and even cancer. That’s why it is imperative that you see your eye doctor regularly.

According to the American Optometric Association, adults between 18 and 65 should get an exam every other year, and all adults over 65 should go annually.  If you already have a prescription for glasses or contact, you’ll need to go once a year to keep these up to date. If your vision is at risk, you should definitely go once a year regardless of your age. These factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of eye disease.

See your dentist at least once a year.

The American Dental Association recommends visiting your dentist at least once a year for a thorough cleaning and exam so your physician can catch problems early while they can still be corrected affordably. While dentists help you prevent problems from developing in the first place, such as cavities and gum disease, they can also detect symptoms of other diseases and medical conditions that may appear in your mouth first.

Once you see your dentist, talk to them about your health and be frank. They may determine that you only need to come in once a year. However, those with certain factors—including tobacco users and those with diabetes—may benefit from more frequent visits.

See your psychiatrist as often as recommended based on your mental health.

The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t have any blanket recommendation for how often someone should visit their psychiatrist or any other mental health professional because this is really determined on a case-by-case basis.

But if you have been diagnosed and prescribed medication for depression or anxiety, it is a good idea to check in once a year to make sure that the medicine is still working for you as it should. If you have recently changed medicines or doses, however, your prescribing physician will most likely want to see you on a more frequent basis. If you aren’t sure how often to go in, ask your doctor for advice.

[Self | Duke Health | Revere Health | MD Anderson Cancer Center]

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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