Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of How to Adult. Today we will be discussing how often you should go to the doctor. And yes, this means that you will indeed have to make your own doctor’s appointments. It’s time to take those reigns (gently) from your mom.
Now before we begin let me be perfectly clear: I am not a doctor or a nurse. You know your body better than anyone else so if you think you need to go to the doctor 17 times in one year, you do it! Just because I say something in this article does not mean it is law. Abide by your own personal code and let this article guide you in the right direction.
First and foremost, let’s talk about your yearly exam. For ladies on birth control, a yearly well-woman exam is required to renew your prescription. But even if you’re not on any sort of prescription medication, a yearly exam is still a good idea. You can schedule one of these with your normal physician, your OBGYN, a nurse practitioner, or whichever type of healthcare professional makes you feel comfortable.
Your doc will check for any unusual lumps or bumps, answer any questions you might have about your body, and generally just ensure that you’re in tip-top shape. It’s like getting an oil change for your car! Except, you know…..it’s a doctor’s appointment. For your body.
And then there is the always-lovely PAP smear. Every woman’s favorite part of the exam. The gaping hospital gown. The stirrups. “Scootch a little farther down for me.” SO FUN.
Really, though, I shouldn’t bash on PAP smears. They’re life-saving little procedures that detect cervical cancer. According to Greatist, you only need a PAP smear every three years beginning at age 21 as long as yours comes back normal. I personally like to do one every year (“like” feels like the wrong word here) just because I’m paranoid but every three years should suffice as long as your doc gives you the OK.
Ok so now that we’ve emphasized the importance of your yearly exam, let’s get into the nitty gritty about everything else.
Something hurts consistently
If you’re experiencing pain that simply won’t go away, it’s probably time to make an appointment. My personal limit is 3-5 days. If I know I’ve tweaked my back at work or felt a weird pop in my knee during my workout, I give it 3-5 days to clear up on its own before I take more drastic action. Obviously, this does not include something like, “I have rolled my ankle, it is three times its normal size, and is turning purple.” In that case, I will hobble myself to the nearest ER.
You know your body best. If your shoulder has been bothering you for a day but it’s concerning you or interfering with your daily life, go ahead and make an appointment. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and if seeing your doc will bring you some peace of mind, go for it! And please for the love of all that is holy, do not consult the interwebs. They are wrong oh so often and have no way of knowing all the details of your situation.
Something smells weird
This one can be a little more embarrassing so let me just go ahead and get my personal anecdote out in the open. A few weeks ago, I started noticing a weird smell in my belly button. It was a little itchy every once in a while and seemed a little irritated so I cleaned it with hydrogen peroxide and moved along. But it wouldn’t go away! I waited my requisite 3-5 days and then decided that a stinky belly button was indeed something to worry about (even though the internet told me it was fine). I made an appointment with my doctor and I am so glad I did – she was actually pretty concerned about it, cleaned it out really well, and prescribed me two different kinds of medication to clear it up. No worries, my belly button is fresh as a daisy now.
Moral of the story: funky smells can be cause for concern! Now don’t go making appointments over a little BO but also be aware that your body shouldn’t naturally be stinky. Sure, there are a few natural smells here and there that aren’t so pleasant but a strong or overpowering odor coming from your vagina, your belly button, your mouth, your ears, a recent cut or wound, or pretty much anywhere should warrant an appointment.
And please don’t be embarrassed to tell your doc what’s going on. I can assure you that they have heard (and smelled!) worse.
Something is incessantly itchy
Please do not bother your doctor because you have dry skin that has become itchy. That, my friends, is where a good lotion comes in.
But please do bother your doctor if something is endlessly itchy. Things that would indicate an issue would be things like a rash, hives, bumps, broken skin from scratching too much, or dry skin all over your body with no apparent cause. You might also be concerned if a certain area is excessively itchy like your vagina or scalp. The itchy skin could be a sign of many things, including an allergic reaction, an infection, bug bites, or any number of other things.
Check out this handy little article from Health Central that can maybe help you further determine when it’s time to call the doctor for your itchiness.
Something isn’t right
I know I sound like a broken record but you know your body best. And part of knowing your body also means knowing yourself, your mental health, and your personality. If something feels off and you don’t feel like yourself, make an appointment! You can make an appointment with your regular doctor or health care professional if you’d like or you can call a mental health professional (your regular health care provider should have recommendations if you don’t know where to start).
If you’re feeling extra down lately, having suicidal thoughts, struggling to wake up, struggling to concentrate, having mood swings, or any number of other symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out and make an appointment. Mental health can sometimes be swept under the rug but it is just as important as physical health and should be treated accordingly. You’ve got to take care of #1, starting at the very top!
OK, ladies, guess how I’m going to wrap this up? Yup: YOU KNOW YOURSELF BEST. Aside from your yearly exam, use your best judgment to decide when to see a doc. It’s your body, it’s your life, and it’s certainly your decision.
What other important times do you think women should see a doctor? Leave your advice in the comments below!