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Why you shouldn’t put off your annual exam

Published in For the Health of It

As we all know, the past year has completely upended our normal, everyday routines. Because of COVID-19, we were forced us to put off family get-togethers, going out to eat, movies, concerts, vacations, and almost anything that we typically had scheduled on our calendars. However, there’s one thing you shouldn’t put off – your annual medical exam.

Many health systems across the U.S. saw a drastic decrease in the number of regular prevention visits throughout the past year, for both children and adults. Some visits were replaced with virtual or telehealth visits, but for many, they simply put off routine or emergency health care during the pandemic.

There was a time early on with COVID-19 when doctor appointments were cancelled or delayed, and decisions about who needed to be seen in person were made to keep patients safe. But we are now in a much better place and patients can return to be seen in person in a way that is safe for the patient and the health care provider. With technology in place, video visits are still a convenient alternative to onsite visits as well when appropriate.

It’s clear that putting off necessary tests and exams can outweigh the risks of catching coronavirus.

Here are the three reasons why you shouldn’t skip your annual medical appointments:

  1. Undiagnosed medical conditions
    Your primary physician or advanced practice provider works with you to diagnose and treat potential problems before they turn into bigger and more serious problems. By skipping your annual exam, you risk the possibility of overlooking serious medical conditions when they are at their most treatable stage, like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or osteoporosis. Timing can make a serious difference.
  2. Vulnerability to preventable illness
    By skipping vaccinations or not sticking to a regular immunization schedule, you are putting yourself (or your family) at risk of contracting a serious illness that is, otherwise, entirely preventable. We are incredibly fortunate to have the new COVID-19 vaccines available to us in plentiful quantities. Achieving immunity among the majority of our population continues to be our best defense in preventing dangerous mutations of the virus. It’s also important to stay current on other regular immunizations for yourself and your family. Illnesses like shingles, pneumonia, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, mumps and polio are all preventable with regular immunizations.
  3. Follow-up on medications and chronic conditions
    There are a variety of reasons why medications become less effective over time. Weight gain, metabolic changes, or increased tolerance are just a few. For these reasons, it’s important to review your current medications with your clinical partner during an annual exam. A careful evaluation of your lab work may reveal issues that can be easily resolved by switching to a different medication or changing your current dosage. Routine medical visits and maintenance exams are vital for patients who have a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart failure, eye disease or kidney disease. These illnesses can have serious complications if not managed closely.

If you have concerns about scheduling your annual exam, or if you have a new or progressing condition that requires a more timely visit, we recommend you contact your primary care provider.

As always, prevention is the best medicine for ongoing good health!