When was the last time you saw a doctor? If you are like most people, it’s been too long. Even if you are “healthy” and have “nothing wrong” with you, it is wise even when young to have a yearly checkup.
Bad-nasties have a way of sneaking up on you, and with some of these things a span of two or three years can be the difference between beating cancer, and, well, not.
Proper diet and exercise play a large role in our health, but genetics may “over rule” these efforts. If you have a family history of any of the multitudes of cancers, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, allergies, or any of a whole list of health issues, yearly physicals may detect them early, and early detection is vital for your health and safety.
The national average for visits to doctors is actually around four times per year. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone sees a doctor four times a year though. Babies are seen by doctors an average of 9 times a year, while kids from five to fifteen years of age average only just over 2 times yearly. Uninsured persons visit doctors less often by about half when compared to persons with private insurance.
Some people will only go see a doctor when they have an emergency and go to the emergency room, and studies have shown that the poor or uninsured often go for extended periods without needed care. This is unfortunate as in many cases early detection can save lives.
If someone has a stroke caused by a blockage, that could well have been prevented had they had a check up and were found to have high cholesterol and had been taking the proper medications.
High blood pressure is another killer that can be easily remedied with drugs such as ACE inhibitors that if left untreated can cause heart attack and stroke. Persons that smoke, drink, overeat, or don’t exercise are at higher risk than people that try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and so should visit the doctor more frequently. Of course stopping the bad habits and increasing the good will lessen the risk of health issues.
After infants, persons with health conditions have the greatest need to visit the doctor. Patients with high blood pressure may see a doctor four to six times a year to be checked and have medications refilled or adjusted.
Patients with conditions such as chronic pain from injuries may visit their doctor six to twelve times a year. Pregnant women will need to see a doctor from every four or five weeks to weekly, depending on the term of pregnancy.
Patients with more serious conditions such as cancer patients may need to see a doctor every few weeks during chemotherapy. Patients undergoing dialysis treatments may need to see a doctor, a Nephrologist, several times a week for treatment.
The question of how often one should see a doctor does not have a simple one-size-fits-all answer. The short answer is at least once a year for an annual checkup just to make sure nothing is going on with you that may need attention. Below is also a break down based on Doctor and reason for calling on the Doctor.
Most healthy women should still plan to see their OB/GYN every year. “Plan annual well-woman visits with your ob-gyn or health care provider for general physical and mental wellness,” says Dr. Ross. “Women who are sexually active should be screened yearly for sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia and gonorrhea.”
Dr. Ross recommends receiving a pap smear and HPV test every three years as long as the results are normal. These tests screen for cervical cancer, so following your doctor’s recommended schedule will ensure that you can address any abnormal results or precancerous cells early.
To screen for breast cancer, begin mammograms every one to two years beginning at age 40. By the way, here is a find-a-doctor page.
Ask your primary doctor if a visit to the eye doctor is necessary for you. “I usually recommend that patients see an eye doctor regularly if they have an underlying condition, like diabetes, that increases their risk of problems,” says Dr. Doggett.
“If they are having visual changes, usually the primary care doctor can do some initial testing and refer as appropriate.” If you already use glasses or contacts, plan to see your optometrist every one to two years to keep your prescription current.
According to the American Dental Association, adults should visit their dentist every six months for cleanings and checkups. “This is due to the speed at which dental problems tend to present and how quickly hardened plaque—called calculus or tartar—can begin to cause gum issues,” says Greg Grobmyer, a dentist at Authority Dental.
At your visit, expect to receive x-rays once per year to screen for bone loss and early cavities.
Your dentist will also provide a yearly oral cancer exam by checking your mouth, throat, and under your tongue. Dr. Grobmyer explains that while the twice-yearly schedule is appropriate for most adults, people with periodontal problems or compromised immune systems should be seen more frequently.