How do you decide when to go to the doctor?

I feel safe saying most of us don’t much like going to the doctor for any reason. But sometimes, ya gotta go. What’s your decision-making process like?

I’m very reluctant to go even if I feel terrible because I don’t want to come across as a hypochondriac. Not that my doctor (actually, I usually see the PA) has ever hinted at that - she’s usually very attentive and professional. Still, I do my best to figure out what’s going on for myself. And I do see her periodically for checkups and blood work and the like - at 61, it’s about time I start taking care of myself! :wink:

One visit was really embarrassing. I had itchy patches on my arms, my legs, and even my neck. It took her half a heartbeat to say “poison ivy.” Even tho it was fall and pretty much everything had died back, you can still get the nasty oils from the roots, which I happened to be digging up in an area I wanted to start a garden. In my defense, tho, I’d never had poison ivy before - I grew up in the suburbs where one never saw it.

But more recently, I had a small bump on my scalp that I kept catching with my comb, causing it to bleed. I went to my dermatologist and they cut it off, only to discover that it was a carcinoma, so I ended up having surgery a few weeks later to get it all out. Had I not been aggravated about the combing, I’d have probably ignored it.

One of the biggest problems for me is internet diagnosis. Look up a symptom and you get a list that includes everything from “no big deal” to “OHNOESYOU’REGONNADIE!!!” Like when I was having a pain in my calf - I found out it could be a blood clot that would break loose and cause a stroke!!! :eek:

Well, the pain has passed, and no stroke - guess I made the right call ignoring that.

Apart from the obvious - like lots of blood or vomit or protruding bones or raging fevers - what will push you from waiting it out to seeking help?

I’m like a lot of guys. I go to the doctor only when I’m too weak to stop my wife from forcibly taking me to the doctor. :slight_smile:

That’s not much of an exaggeration. In the last six years, I’ve been to the doctor for two issues. One was asthma, which periodically (like every five years or so) acts up and needs a prescription of Flovent to get back under control. The other was a massive injury to my leg; when there’s blood spurting onto the walls, even I go see a doctor.

I’ve pretty much given up on medical care. My health insurer (HighMark) and my healthcare providers (UPMC) are feuding. I’m caught in the middle.

In addition, as a self-employed person, the Affordable Care Act has caused my costs to skyrocket.

So, fuck it. My PCP office keeps calling about scheduling my yearly, and I let it go to voice mail.

No need to be too embarrassed about it, then. Doctors are there to re-assure. I had something similar once: bumps and welts on my legs that looked like some embarrassing infestation, but she reckoned it was a combination of excessively dry skin, a patch or two of eczema and scratching the itching they caused. I expect a pharmacist could have suggested exactly the same solution (industrial strength skin cream), but that’s what doctors are paid for too.

More than 48 hours of uncomfortable symptoms with no obvious improvement from self care and proprietary medicines.

Even if something does go away, I might save it up for one of the regular checks: one time I mentioned occasional and infrequent bouts of excess stomach acid, and the doctor had me going through all sorts of tests (even an endoscopy) till they were able to identify a cause and solution (just another pill, and all’s well).

(Our NHS also has its online symptom checker service and a telephone enquiry line, which are quite good at describing the levels of symptom to take to different services, like pharmacy, GP, A&E or “Call the ambulance NOW”).

I’m petrified of both doctors and of going bankrupt, so I avoid the doctor (I like the dentist though). Luckily I’m young enough to not have a realistic chance of dying soon.

I’m asthmatic, so if my peak flow drops below 500 for three days with no improvement, I go. (My norm is 600.)

If I have an ongoing migraine that won’t stop with my normal meds, I see my neurologist.

I see my GYN just enough to keep getting HRT.

Generally, the only other problem I have is random rashes or sinus infections. When they get icky and don’t respond to home treatment, I go, with much grumping.

Tomorrow I go to the dentist, again, for a bone or tooth splinter that’s working its way out of a recent tooth extraction. Ouch.

I was just thinking about this the other day.

I’m on allergy shots so I go see my allergist twice a year.

I go see my gyno once a year.

I see my dentist promptly every six months. (Since I found a dentist I love I don’t mind going at all.)

But I rarely ever see my primary care. I was recently diagnosed with carpal tunnel, which took a few different visits. It took me a few months to go for the nerve tingling I was having at night.

It’s all just such a pain. Like, it started bothering me in November. Got really bad in December-January. In January I went to see my primary care. She recommended me X and Y. X and Y didn’t work so I called her back. She told me to get an EMGNCV test. That was scheduled out to April.

So until April I dealt with it. In April I got the test. Then I had to go back to the doctor.

In the end I ended up with a brace which is working fairly well. I may have to do something more serious in the future, but for now it is good. But that’s like, six months of doctor’s visits and scans and waiting just to get something done.

And it’s still better than it was before ACA…

I went for my first full physical in about twenty years because the Mrs. made the appointment for me while she was there. (No problems, other than a slight Vitamin D deficiency, now corrected. Which I was pretty sure was the case; I don’t ignore my health, either. I think she was disappointed… I was supposed to have as many 50s-ish problems as she does.)

Other than that, I just let the ambulance crew choose. :smiley:

I go for a physical every year, though my new doctor says because I am in good health she doesn’t need to see me for a physical more than every 2-3 years. So yay.

For sickness or injury I base it on a few things.

Sickness - I don’t go see the doctor if it improves within a reasonable amount of time, and/or it feels like a standard cold or flu. I’ll go if I know I’ve been exposed to something icky and treatable and my symptoms fit the icky thing. E.g. a few years ago when I’d spent several days with an under-the-weather friend who turned out to have bacterial pneumonia and I came down with a nasty cold immediately following. I didn’t have pneumonia but the doctor said I’d done the right thing to come in. I’ll also go if something feels “wrong” e.g. a few years ago when I tore a muscle in my ribs coughing. I’ve seen a doctor for sickness maybe 3 times in 10 years.

Injury - if it hurts a lot, bleeds a lot or doesn’t improve with home treatment within a reasonable amount of time.

If I had an all-over rash, I’d go too.

I rarely go to the doctor because of bad health, but then, I rarely get anything that isn’t self-limiting.

I think the only time I made an appointment due to an actual health issue was when the Red Cross told me my test of Hep C was “inconclusive” and I couldn’t give blood any more. I needed to set up more tests (which, as I expected, were eventually negative).

ETA: About ten years before that, I started getting blurred vision. Then I had a blackout – I couldn’t remember a half hour of my life (I remember driving up to the supermarket, and the next thing I knew I was eating dinner in our kitchen. Nothing in between). I made an appointment for a series of tests, including a CAT scan and an MRI. Turned out my brain was normal for my age. As for the vision, as soon as I described it to my ophthalmologist, she said, “Ocular migraine.” (Thought it turned out I had other developing vision issues, so I’m still seeing her).

I go to the eye doctor and gyno once a year each. I go to the dentist 3 times a year.

I was going to my PCP a lot, several times a year, until I missed one appointment and he didn’t have a way to say “come see me again in 6 months” so I didn’t go again for over a year. Then my prescriptions ran out and my GERD almost killed me so I went crawling in. But it was a good visit and no follow-ups needed so who knows when I’ll be back.

When I was undergoing menopause, I was alarmed at the weird things going on with my body and my mind. I’d bug the doctor about why my heart was pounding, why my veins felts bizarrely throbby, why my chest and stomach felt like they were buzzing like a cheap refrigerator. After awhile I got tired of the blank stares I’d receive and I stopped seeking help.

That attitude is still with me. I figure that because I’m an old woman, it’s natural that things will hurt or not work the way that they used to, so why bother the doctor?

I did go awhile ago because I have chest pains when exercising, to the point where I’ve stopped walking and running like I used to. The treadmill/radiation test showed nothing, but I still have the pains when I try to walk. I don’t feel like going back and asking about it again; they’ll think I’m a hypochondriac or give me the blank stare like when I asked about menopause symptoms.

I’m very familiar with that. My husband had continuing abdominal pains that he insisted were nothing (“I’m not a wimp!”) until the night he finally let me take him to the ER. When he had to have his infected gall bladder removed, I didn’t say “I told you so” but I sure wanted to… I think the 2 night stay in the hospital made my point.

If a bone is sticking out, I’m a gamer.

I will probably regret it someday, but even though I have insurance, I have to be carried to a doctor. I will have to be deathly ill or something broken. 1) Doctors scare me to death, I have seen more than my share of nasty, insulting, abrupt, unsympathetic ones. I’ve never had a ‘nice’ doctor. They all want to take a look under the hood and find something deathly wrong with me, anyway. which brings me to 2) my plan is to drop dead sometime in the future of some disease, or be diagnosed and have a brief time to live. I don’t want to get pills to keep me going, keep me alive, pills for heart and blood pressure and cholesterol. When my time comes, my time comes… I have no family to speak of to look after me in my old age, if I had to go get dialysis or chemo, I would have to drive myself or call a taxi. And who would look after me at home? My mother had several grave conditions and illnesses. Heart attack, thyroid removal, carotid artery stent, cancer. She was taking a handful of ever-changing pills that kept her alive way way way past her expiration date. She’s still taking them! She’s in a nursing home, in strapping good health! Wearing a diaper, getting ‘visits’ from my long-dead father, and attempting to feed her stuffed animals. She doesn’t even know she’s IN a nursing home. But her heart is like a 40 year olds! She can live another 10-15 years, easy, they tell me. (she took 10 years off of MY life, before I got her into the nursing home. maybe she’s going to use that.)

I belong to a major HMO. They seem to want patients to come in only if there if visible blood.

Their usual line is: Wait a week and then if it doesn’t go away, come in.

So I always wait a week before I even call (I mean, if it’s not something really obviously serious). Then they tell me to wait a week! Well, duh, I already waited a week! Okay, wait another week.

More generally, their protocol seems to be: Take two aspirin, and don’t call back if you’re still alive in the morning.

Doctors scare me. I walked for 6 months on a broken foot until I finally went to the doctor for my annual exam/blood draw (I’m on thyroid meds and need my blood checked once a year). She sent me for x-rays but also referred me to an orthopedist. Tried a boot but ended up having to have the bone removed.

I went over 30 years between visits until the thyroid thing was diagnosed. I’m very rarely ill, and when I am I figure it’ll go away if I ignore it long enough. So far Ive been right. Because cancer gallops in my family, I now get an annual mammogram.


I do go for “spot” things. I have an appointment later this month to start the process of getting a mole removed. It’s purely cosmetic, but this particular mole is super annoying.

There’s this too (for old men too, in case that needs to be mentioned).

We old farts get all sorts of general aches and pains, with new ones happening all the time.

We have absolutely no way to know which particular new ache or pain is serious and needing immediate medical attention. Yet at the same time, we continually hear those horror stories about someone croaking or getting horribly ill because some subtle early warning sign was overlooked or ignored.

Combine this with my comment just above, about the HMO discouraging patients from coming in often. I think the most cost effective thing an HMO can do is to just let their older patients die early, and I think that is what they are in fact doing.