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Praire Doc: Anything from acne to Zika

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Katherine Streeter for NPR

The interview above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment.

Click here for more Praire Doc.

Column by Jill Kruse, D.O.

I enjoy visiting with my colleagues who are medical specialists. We dive in and explore the depths of a particular condition. However, there is something to say about the breadth of knowledge that a family medicine physician is expected to have. Your family doctor can run through the alphabet of conditions from acne to the zika virus.

A 2004 study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that a family medicine physician managed an average of 3.05 problems per clinic visit. For patients over 65 years of age, that number went up to 3.88 problems and patients with diabetes had an average of 4.60 problems addressed at each visit. A specialist physician will generally focus on one problem at each visit.

However, patients are not made up of individual problems. The body functions as a unit and issues in one area can affect another unrelated organ system. We know that chronic pain can lead to depression and vice versa. Stooped posture due to compression fractures from osteoporosis can lead to lung issues as the ribs cannot open up as fully as they normally do. We continue to learn more on how the micro biome of the bacteria in the body affect things from a person’s weight to immune system function.

This is why it is so important to have a primary care physician and to make sure they have access to your complete medical history. With a comprehensive view of your records, symptoms that might otherwise seem unrelated can be assessed and may assist with diagnosis. Talk to your doctor to determine if all your medical information and testing results are consolidated into one record, especially if you have doctors who work in different health care systems.

The primary care physician also serves as a guide between the patient and the specialist, offering valuable medical detail to the specialist and providing clarification to the patient.

Recently I had a patient who timidly started their question with the preface, “I’m not sure if I should ask you this, but….” I quickly reassured them that in primary care, any question is fair game. If it is something that I can answer, I will. If I do not have the answer, I can do some research, consult with a colleague, or refer you on to someone who does have that answer for you. So, no matter your condition from acne and amblyopia to zika virus and zoster, your family doctor should have you covered. Go ahead, ask anything from A to Z!

Jill Kruse, D.O. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices as a hospitalist in Brookings, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc® at www.prairiedoc.org and on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc®, a medical Q&A show celebrating its twentieth season of truthful, tested, and timely medical information, broadcast on SDPB and streaming live on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.