Don’t wait until you have a problem to think about getting a primary care physician. It’s too important to your health-both now and in the future. Think of your primary care doctor as your medical home, they are the first healthcare professional you should contact when you have a question or need. They can handle a variety of medical problems, provide preventive care and advice, maintain your medical history and can refer you to specialists when needed.
You Can’t Plan for the Future Without Knowing Your History
Stephen Nale, MD, a family medicine physician in New Albany, explained the importance of having a physician who knows your medical history. “As primary care providers, we care for individuals or families over an extended period of time, and oversee all the components of their health including physical, environmental and psychological factors that can impact a person’s wellbeing. With the knowledge of what our patients have experienced in the past, we’re better able to identify trends and pinpoint problems before they get out of hand. Prevention and early detection is what we ultimately strive for, but in order for us to help patients avoid future health problems, we need to know what their health has been like in the past.”
Dr. Nale continued, “A lot of people, especially younger people, don’t see the value in yearly exams and screenings, but they are critical. For example, screening young males for testicular cancer and reviewing any inherited tendencies toward conditions such as heart disease can help avoid problems down the line. Women should also receive regular mammograms and pap smears according to recommended guidelines, and patients with chronic conditions should be diligent about getting regular check-ups with their doctor so they can ensure that the treatment for one condition isn’t adversely affecting another.”
“Having a primary care physician really is a necessity. Everyone should have a yearly physical exam and screenings to check for signs of concerning medical conditions. If you’re not informed about the state of your health, conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, along with many others, can cause irreversible damage before you even realize it. That’s what preventive medicine is all about, and why it’s so important to have a primary care physician who can track your health history and intervene before it’s too late.”
Stephen Nale, MD
Board Certified Family Medicine
Family Physicians of Southern Indiana
What Do Primary Care Physicians Treat?
Knowing what conditions or needs constitute visiting your primary care physician is important. This list outlines most, but not all, conditions your primary care doctor can address:
- Routine health screenings and check-ups
- Chronic condition management
- Pain-related condition management
- Mental health needs
- Sports, work or school physicals
- Flu or cold symptoms
- Sinus problems
- Strep throat, flu or mono testing
- Minor allergic reactions
- Tick removal or insect bites and stings
- Minor sports injuries
- Minor breaks or sprains
- Minor burns
- Minor lacerations or cuts
- Bladder infection
- Pregnancy testing
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Which Specialties Are Considered Primary Care Physicians?
Also referred to as family practice, this type of doctor specializes in the comprehensive treatment of individuals and families regardless of age and sex. They are trained in several medical areas including internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, general surgery and psychiatry, with a focus on health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses.
Also known as internists, this type of doctor’s concentrated training is in the care of adults. They are specially trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can treat multiple chronic illnesses simultaneously. In some instances, internists receive additional training to become “subspecialists” in fields such as cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology and infectious diseases, just to name a few.
As primary care physicians for children, pediatricians specialize in the four primary stages of childhood development, including infancy (birth – 1 year), early childhood (1 – 4 years), middle childhood (4 – 10 years), and adolescence (11 – 18 years). In addition to the treatment of childhood diseases and medical conditions, preventive health practices such as immunizations and regular wellness exams are an important part of the care that pediatricians provide their young patients.