Now is the time for that primary care "visit"
The COVID-19 quarantine leaves many of us with a little more time on our hands – and a chance to take a closer look at some of the medical issues we may have been putting off.
“It’s a good time to address some of these underlying issues, like BP (blood pressure), high cholesterol and diabetes,” said Internal Medicine Physician Rose Shorter, MD. “If people let them get out of control at home, we’ve seen that they do much worse with COVID-19 and a number of other things.”
Dr. Shorter is concerned that people will allow chronic conditions to get worse during this isolation period, because they may be gravitating towards comfort foods that exacerbate their condition, and they may be exercising less. Stress may also mask some issues, she added.
“A lot of symptoms that might come from heart disease or stroke, that are a result of these uncontrolled conditions, might be brushed off as stress-related,” she said. “By talking with your doctor, we can help sort them out and decide how important it is to check on it.”
Of course, you should always call 911 immediately for the following, she stressed:
Heart attack symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Left arm or shoulder pain
- Jaw pain
Stroke warning signs can be remembered by the acronym BE FAST:
- B – Balance difficulty
- E – Eyes or vision disturbance
- F – Face droopiness
- A – Arm (or leg) weakness
- S – Speech difficulty
- T – Time to call 911
Your Own Cheerleader
Managing chronic conditions is often hard to do on your own, Dr Shorter said.
“They’re things that require some effort on the patient’s part, so having their own cheerleader, their own personal doctor, can be helpful.”
Primary care physicians within Cape Cod Healthcare have moved to telemedicine for most appointments, she said, which means you can have your questions and concerns addressed without having to leave your home.
“I encourage people to call if they have any symptoms, because often, by just talking to them, we can help them decide if it’s something that needs to be seen (in the office or at the hospital) or not,” she said.
Dr. Shorter said her office at Sandwich Primary Care continues to be busy with telemedicine visits, but she has heard some reluctance on the part of some patients to pursue symptoms that may need follow-up attention.
“Most things we used to triage – they would either come into the office or we would have them go to the hospital. Now, you’re probably going to get an appointment with a doctor to try to decide together if you need to go somewhere else or if it can be handled with a telemedicine visit,” she said.
If you have an urgent need when your doctor’s office is closed for the day or on the weekend, such as urinary tract infections, tick bites, fractured bones, and lacerations that may need stitches, Dr. Shorter urges people to visit a Cape Cod Healthcare Urgent Care Center. The centers are following strict protocol to ensure that patients are safe, she said.
The bottom line is: ignoring your health needs because you are worried about getting COVID-19 leaves open the possibility that you will suffer from something worse, now or down the line, said Dr. Shorter.
“I’m concerned that the people who probably need to check in the most might be embarrassed or might be thinking, ‘I’ll deal that later,’ and we won’t know,” she said. “It’s helpful to sometimes just talk through things.”