Putting General Health on the Back Burner

If you check my calendar, it seems like I’m running from one doctor’s appointment to another. Rheumatologist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist. And don’t forget all the labs!

Back when I was responsible for my son with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, the appointments tripled because his disease severity was worse than mine. Thankfully, he’s flying solo, now that he’s over the age of 18. I’ll take any break I can get. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, a mom’s job is never done and worrying about his health is a given on any day.

So, with all this hoopla around managing my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, you can understand why I put off getting a general physical for five years, right? I mean, I really didn’t want to see another doctor. I really didn’t want to give another five tubes of blood.

Way overdue for that check-up

It was actually my husband’s health that drove me to pick up the phone and making an appointment with my primary care physician. I love my husband dearly, and he’s so good at many things, but even he is quick to admit that doctor-speak is not in his wheelhouse.

Of course, making an appointment for his physical snowballed into making one for myself.

The scheduler said, “You know you have a primary doctor for a reason. You’re way overdue for a physical. How about we schedule that for you?

Sigh... Ok, ok.

Not a picture of perfect health

Yes, I have psoriasis. Yes, I have psoriatic arthritis. But both diseases have been pretty well managed with my current biologic medication. I work out on average five times a week. I eat fairly healthy foods – minus the chocolate that I just can’t seem to give up. I drink water. I try to get enough sleep. I practice yoga once in a while for stress and to help stretch out my limbs and back. I was sure I was a pretty healthy person.

Apparently, ignorance is bliss.

Ok, to clarify, I don’t have anything radically wrong, and there is nothing that came back that set up red flags. However, I’m not in the tip-top shape I thought.

A thorough once-over

At the appointment, I answered about 100 health questions. I got weighed and found out that I’ve gained nearly 20 pounds in the past five years. So, more exercise and fewer carbs.

I found out that my horrible abdominal pain that comes and goes is something slightly concerning and could be a co-morbidity (a scary-sounding word that just means a related disease) due to my psoriatic arthritis. More tests are needed.

Since I don’t have a gynecologist, I get my pap test when I get my physical, so I was five years late on that, too. As if this wasn’t the most uncomfortable test I could possibly have, you gotta love when the doctor says, “It’s really red down here. Is this normal?” Um, yep. Psoriasis. Also, this test revealed that I’m a strep carrier, which helps explain why my psoriasis is never completely gone.

I also found out that my Vitamin D level is nearly non-existent, so more pills. I’ve known this for a while, but being the bad patient I am, I stopped taking the supplement years ago. Like my weight, it finally caught up with me. Low Vitamin D might also explain why I get severe cramps in my shins. Yet another symptom I have put off dealing with for years.

I also have low glucose, which could be a sign of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). I think my family would agree. I do get hangry often.

Oh, and I’m on the low end of normal for hemoglobin, so I’ll need to watch this to make sure I don’t get anemic.

The outcome

Waiting so long to get a physical only compounded issues that may have been brewing for years. If I had seen my primary care physician yearly - like I’m supposed to – I might not have any new problems to report or at least these issues could be better managed. I've been dealing with doctors for so many years, but that doesn't mean I'm a doctor. I need to let the professionals do their jobs and be a little more compliant to help them.

My advice: Take the time to get your annual physical. What the exam and labs reveal may just help you manage your chronic health conditions better. After all, it is often your primary care physician that puts all of the pieces together and takes a look at the big picture of your health versus specialists that only tend to focus on their specific area.

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