One of the problems of health care delivery is access to a health care facility. Many factors are responsible for how easy it is for patients to visit the health care facility and receive medical or surgical attention to their problems. These may include the following:
Physical location and availability of health care facility
Patients willingness to use the hospital
Of these factors, the first two can be a problem in poor undeveloped areas of the world. Many countries and nations are not well-equipped with fully functional and staffed hospitals due to problems with policymaking, governance and financial reasons. In some of these areas, including Africa (Liberia, Malawi, Niger), health care is poor resulting reduced number of doctors per million of the population.
For example, as of 2019, Liberia had only 14 doctors per million of her population of over a 4.9million. That is to say that, the country had less than 70 doctors for the entire population. That’s bad, isn’t it?
In many of those climes like Nigeria, the doctor-patient ratio has been widened so significantly as 4doctors to 10,000 population, as of 2019. This value later became 1 to 2753 as of March 2020. This results in extremely difficult conditions for the doctors and other members of the health team, and patients would have to wait for hours to be seen in a public facility.
Then secondly, financial factors account for most of the reasons why patients in poor and undeveloped countries fail to visit the hospital. This challenge has been surmounted in countries like America, the United Kingdom and other developed nations of the world through insurance to attain the Universal Health Coverage SDG of the World Health Organization. This standard development goal has been fraught with many problems and challenges in poor income countries of Africa and around the world.
However, in the United States, insurance covers health services and that in itself reduces the impediments people face when deciding to see a doctor in a hospital. But in the COVID-19 Era, more than ever, it is important that Americans be proactive about their health. Unfortunately, fears about the pandemic and the ever-increasing stats are driving people away from visiting the doctor, walk-in clinics and delaying routine care when they really need to.
This observation above has been supported by several statistical pieces of evidence. According to a poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) done in the mid part of the year 2020, 29 per cent of Americans are avoiding or delaying medical care due to fear of contracting the new virus, SARS-CoV-2. This resulted in excess deaths because of COVID but not necessarily directly from it. People who were scheduled for routine checkups defaulted their hospital visits, those who had other illnesses aside from COVID failed to show up to the hospital and these correspondingly increased the number of deaths recorded during the period.
Massachusetts’s “The Standard-Times” also sums it up that “COVID has had another impact on the region’s collective health: Patients haven’t been showing up for their regular check-ups and screenings“.
Among patients of the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, a notable 25% are less likely to keep and/or schedule new in-person medical appointments. In addition to skipping routine exams and check-ups, patients are also forgoing screenings for breast and cervical cancers or prostate cancer.
This problem is not unique to Bedford or the state of Massachusetts. Doctors all over the country(US) are experiencing this phenomenon and are beginning to find ways to encourage patients to attend their annual exams, cancer screenings, and keep any other routine appointments that may be critically important to their health. Doctors remind patients that regular check-ups are essential for early medical diagnoses, prompt treatment and preventive care. Annual exams, bi-annual or any routine examination/screening may help diagnose health conditions that need special attention and for which early diagnosis could be life-saving, for example, cardiovascular disease(s), diabetes, cancer, and mental illness.
Why People Don’t Visit The Doctor Early
In areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, natural medicine is still being practised. Such that there are countless alternatives to orthodox medicine before a patient finally shows up at the hospital. In these areas, the different alternatives include the following:
Spiritual healing, quite hilarious, right?
Then finally, the hospital
These are not without their own consequences. What are some disadvantages of late hospital presentation?
Disadvantages of Presenting Late to The Hospital
Worsening of symptoms
Preventable illness becomes problematic
Unwarranted death or loss of body part
Progressing to advanced stages of a disease
Treatment failure can occur when the disease has been more established
Organs invasion and destruction
The cost of treatment may increase proportionately
The unwarranted burden on health facility
Need for hospitalization
Impact of work and business, etc.
I won’t go on to explain these disadvantages in this post, but hopefully in another. However, the most common questions when you are deciding to see a doctor are, when do I need to see a doctor, at what point exactly? Or maybe you are having a cough, breathing difficulties, or other common symptoms that may be easily overlooked, you may want to be sure when it has become something more serious than you once thought. So how do you know these signs?
Yes, it is not yet time for your annual exam or routine screening, but don’t you think you need to see a doctor for that symptom you are currently experiencing? Here are some telltale signs that you should see a doctor without delay
When Should You See A Doctor?
We will see these situations under the following common symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Tight chest or Irregular Heartbeat
Frequent Digestive Issues
You Are Experiencing Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath can often be normal after a strenuous exercise but it can also indicate a serious underlying medical problem. Even more especially, in this Era of the Pandemic, shortness of breath or difficulty with breathing is a fore-front symptom that quickly pops up to everyone’s mind for COVID-19 infection.
Whereas common flu/cold may cause shortness of breath or breathing difficulties, other medical conditions can also be linked with it. First, the COVID-19, then other unrelated conditions like Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung problems(e.g, pneumonia), heart problems/cardiovascular disease (e.g, heart failure), anaemia, rib fracture, anxiety, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia gravis, etc.
In the case of COVID-19, shortness of breath can set in a few days after exposure to the virus via droplet infection. Other symptoms will simultaneously be seen afterwards, like fever, cough, body aches, malaise, and fatigue. Should you experience these symptoms, let your healthcare provider or the staff at walk-in clinics know ahead of time. Chances are they will assess your symptoms, and ask you to use a separate entrance for COVID patients.
Whether the cause is related to COVID-19 or not, shortness of breath is now considered a serious symptom and should always warrant a trip to the doctor or urgent care clinic.
If your shortness of breath is accompanied by nausea, fainting, chest pain, or a bluish tinge (cyanosis), seek emergency care (that is, call 911) immediately.
You still puzzled about when you need to see a doctor when you have shortness of breath? This symptom is not something you should ignore.
If you are worried about the pandemic – either about being exposed or exposing others, talk to your doctor about their commercial disinfection procedures to put your mind at ease. Doctors’ offices, urgent care clinics, and hospitals are all undergoing extra thorough disinfection, sanitizing, and cleaning during this time.
Your Chest Is Tight, or Your Heartbeat Is Irregular
Chest tightness is another symptom you should not ignore. It could herald the onset of one of a list of diseases including a pulled muscle or muscle strain, heartburn, Peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), asthma, hypertension, heart problems, anxiety, etc.
Palpitation is noticed when you can feel or hear your heart racing rapidly as it beats. Your heartbeat can be heard when someone places their ears over your chest and sometimes, you may be able to pick up the subtle beats with your hand. But it becomes sinister when you can obviously hear your own heart beating rapidly. Palpitations may indicate stress, arrhythmia, heart problems, hyperthyroidism, fluid depletion, anaemia and pregnancy.
Chest tightness is also a symptom of COVID-19, amongst others listed above, however, the only issue here is that you cannot be so sure which disease is producing the symptoms, except if you have previously been diagnosed with it. This is why it becomes important to see the doctor for the symptom because only your doctor can tell you for sure what underlying disease is producing the symptom and provide appropriate management.
If possible, it may be required to talk to your health care provider on the phone before seeing them in person. They will ask you directed questions to ascertain if you would need to do some ancillary investigations and tests.
Chest tightness, palpitations, coughing and breathlessness run the gamut of heart and lungs-related problems. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications like dietary modifications, regular exercises by joining a local gym, and adequate rest; medications for anxiety, hypertension, obesity etc, then, further testing/investigations. Surgery may be required to manage severe symptoms.
In any case, if you are experiencing severe symptoms, do not sit your ‘lazy fat ass’ down thinking if you should see a doctor or not. Just go to the hospital. Chest tightness accompanied by squeezing, weakness, nausea, fainting, progressively worsening pain, and/or pain that radiates outward to your jaw, arm, or shoulder could signal a more serious condition. Call emergency services if available, call your health care provider or see the doctor immediately.
You Have A High Fever
Fever is a common symptom indicative of an inflammatory process in the body. In inflammation, white blood cells in your body are recruited and stimulated to release certain chemicals called cytokines. These cytokines are responsible for the pain you experience and the increased temperature.
Fever is suggestive of an underlying infectious disease (viral, bacterial and/or fungi), an inflammatory disease like autoimmune and hypersensitivity disorders, and in some rare cases, it could indicate the presence of a tumour or malignancy.
Natural medicine may be appropriate at some times but may not be recommended at other times. For example, it is generally alright to take warm tea and honey for the common cold, and ginger for an upset stomach. Though, orthodox medicine may not have an evidence-based explanation of how these natural products work for those ailments. Their use may be for palliative or just for relief until the body handles the illness by itself through its immune system. However, certain levels of effectiveness have been reported when using natural medicine.
For minor cases, the use of natural products may suffice, but when symptoms become severe or abnormally persistent, it is important to consider seeing a doctor. For instance, MSN Lifestyle recommends that you see a doctor if you have high-grade fever (103°F or 39°C or greater) for an adult and greater than or equal to 102°F (38.9°C) for children; or if the fever lasts longer than three days at a stretch of time. It is not okay to rely solely on natural methods for persistent high-grade fever.
Depending on how severe the symptoms are, you may consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor at your next convenient time, or you may need to see the doctor immediately without delay.
Two things to note here are as follows:
Delay may be dangerous, especially for severe symptoms
Persistent high-grade fever not resolved by self-medication warrants that you see the doctor
Fever with associative symptoms like rapidly spreading rash, pain on leaning forward, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or chest pain, that relates to other major organs of the body (lungs, heart, liver, etc) may signify a need for emergency medical care.
You Have Back Pain
Back pain is an extraordinarily common complaint. As many as 16 million U.S. adults regularly experience back pain, and often without treatment or any significant relief. Just because something is common does not necessarily mean that it is normal. When do you need to see a doctor for back pain?
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends seeing a doctor about your back pain if the pain lasts more than a few weeks at a time, the pain is constant, the pain is accompanied by muscle weakness or numbness, the pain presents with fever, the pain radiates down into your legs, or the pain comes with sudden weight loss. See your doctor if you have a fever or if you have swelling alongside your pain.
Back pain may be related to a number of different causes. Your back pain may be related to osteoporosis, muscle strain, arthritis, or a ruptured disk.
Doctors may prescribe medications, refer you to a physical therapist or to chiropractic treatment, or ask you to lose weight and make lifestyle changes to help mitigate your back pain.
You Suffer From Frequent Digestive Issues
It may be tempting to put off doctor’s appointments until they are truly necessary. That raises the question, “When are they truly necessary?” or “When do you need to see a doctor?”
Some of the answers might surprise you. For example, it is unwise to ignore lasting digestive issues.
GERD, gas, stomach ulcers, gluten sensitivity, food allergies, the flu, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), and gallstones may cause a persistently upset stomach or constant stomach pain.
To reach a diagnosis, your doctor may order diagnostic testing, like allergy testing, advise you to make dietary and lifestyle changes, ask you to avoid alcohol or specific medications or take steps to reduce stressors in your life.
If your doctor asks you to change your diet owing to digestive issues, they may ask you to avoid coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, fried foods, fatty foods, acidic foods, and carbonated drinks. Instead, choose mild foods, high-fibre foods, and low-fat foods. Purchase bulk superfoods or frequent farmer’s markets to keep your grocery bill low.
The answers to the question, “When do you need to see a doctor?” aren’t always straightforward. If your symptoms persist after prolonged lifestyle or dietary changes, schedule a follow-up with your doctor.
You Are Struggling With An Addiction
Again, the answer to “When do you need to see a doctor?” is not always obvious. Relatively few patients know that those who are struggling with addiction can turn to their primary care doctors for help.
According to the American Addiction Centers (AAC), “A general physician can be the ideal partner in fighting substance abuse and staying on the recovery path.” That holds true for several different reasons. Here are the surprising ways doctors can help, even if you are fighting severe addictive symptoms:
Work closely with your doctor and kickstart your recovery with medication. Getting clean is hard work. Do not go it alone. Talk to your doctor about medications that can help. If your doctor agrees that medication is the right path for you, medication may help reduce withdrawal symptoms, balance your brain chemistry, and even deter you from giving into cravings and/or significantly decrease them.
Receive compassionate monitoring. Drugs and alcohol “poison your liver, damage your heart, and affect your entire system,” the AAC continues. As such, stopping cold turkey can be dangerous. Your doctor will work with you to help treat current damages and mitigate any further damage that may be caused during the withdrawal process.
Armed with your full medical history, a doctor can help you make the best possible decisions for your recovery. Your full medical history may include your current medications, surgeries, illnesses, allergies, and mental health background. A doctor can use this history to help you make informed decisions about your recovery.
A doctor can refer you to a high-quality rehab facility. Those who are recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction achieve greater success when they have support. Ask your doctor to refer you to outpatient treatment, a support group, or, for severe cases, a quality, inpatient rehab facility.
When You Are In Pain
“Pain is your body’s warning sign that something is not right and it isn’t something you should ‘tough out,'” MSN warns. When do you need to see a doctor for pain?
See a doctor if your pain persists for more than a few weeks at a time, if you experience numbness or loss of sensation, if your pain is increasing in severity, you lose muscle control, or you sweat while in pain. In fact, if you feel that your pain is in any way abnormal, it is best to visit your doctor for a formal diagnosis.
The doctor may recommend anything from medications, cold or hot compresses, elevation, rest, clinical massage, or physical therapy. Depending on the root cause of your pain, they may refer you to a specific professional, like a joint preservation specialist. A joint preservation specialist will work with you to help heal and preserve your natural joints and tissue rather than artificially replacing them down the line.
You Are Pregnant and Expecting
If you get a positive pregnancy test, one of the first questions you should ask is, “When do you need to see a doctor?” Call your provider. They will let you know when they want you to come in. For an expectant mother without a history of early pregnancy loss or other complications, providers will generally schedule their first antenatal appointments between seven and 12 weeks. If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, they may ask you to come in sooner to confirm all is well.
During your first trimester visits, your doctor will advise you about any food and lifestyle restrictions, perform a viability or dating scan, conduct lab tests, and tests for fetal abnormalities, like Down Syndrome and spina bifida.
If you are 35 years or older, the course of your treatment may be somewhat different. This is considered advanced maternal age in the medical community. Your doctor may perform extra screenings or ultrasounds and perform additional genetic testing.
When do you need to see a doctor? First and foremost, doctors across the country urge patients not to ignore symptoms and delay necessary appointments owing to their fears of COVID. Doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, and hospitals are taking extra precautions. If you still feel uncomfortable, you may be able to schedule a virtual appointment or talk to your doctor about their safety measures at length.
In conclusion, what appointments are necessary? Go to annual exams and cancer screenings. See your doctor if you have persistent pain, back pain, a high fever, chest tightness, shortness of breath, digestive issues, or if you are pregnant. You will be thankful for it.
If you still have any more concerns, drop them in the comment box below. Stay well and healthy.
I am a seasoned writer, not because I am some genius but thanks to many years of trials, failure, and near successes. I curate the most content on this website; all geared towards making you a better and happier audience.