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When You Need a Specialist

Posted on 07 December 2017 by sam

When it comes to health, most of the time we’re set with a general checkup from a PCP, or Primary Care Physician (or family practice doctor, or general practitioner), who has a solid overall understanding of the various ailments or illnesses patients face. Every now and again, however, we need to turn to a specialist. If you start experiencing symptoms of anything, the best person to turn to first is your PCP; however, the PCP may ultimately decide to refer you to a more specialized doctor. He or she may do this right away, or the PCP may have you try a few preliminary drug or physical therapy treatments first, and then, if the issue doesn’t improve, send you on to a specialist. This doesn’t mean that your PCP is passing the buck. It means that he or she has an idea as to what your problem is but wants to be absolutely sure–and wants you to get the best care possible

Take your doctor’s advice. It could save your life. If your doctor finds a lump on your breast during a yearly pap smear and breast exam (some women choose to go to a gynecologist for these, but PCPs can provide these services as well), he or she will send you directly to a women’s health clinic or service to get diagnostic tests. If it turns out to be cancerous, this specific clinic will either help you begin treatments or move you into a hospital setting that can.

The same is true for vision and dental health as well. While it’s imperative to maintain regular appointments with your eye doctor and dentist, there may be times when you need to see an additional doctor. If your dentist notices that your gums are receding or bleeding excessively, he or she will likely refer you to a periodontic dentist, which is a dentist who focuses on gum health, disease, and surgery. If you decide to get Lasik surgery, it’s unlikely that your optometrist will be able to perform it–but he or she will probably have a specific surgeon to recommend. It’s part of any doctor’s responsibility to let you know when your issue is beyond his or her expertise.

Once you’re established with a specialist, you may need to make recurring appointments and start communicating directly with this new doctor. Some issues, such as seeing a podiatrist after a foot injury, may not require years of visits with that doctor; others, such as rheumatoid arthritis, will require you to have a lifetime commitment with a rheumatologist. Of course, this never means that you should give up on your PCP! There will always be other health concerns that come up (or simply your yearly wellness check-up). Keep your PCP informed of the developments with your specialty doctor. Sometimes these doctors may be within the same medical system, but they aren’t always, so be sure that your records with both doctors are always up-to-date, so that each is aware of your various treatments and medications.