By Maher Youssef, MD, FACP
I recently saw a patient who had tripped at home, cutting and bruising his face, eyebrow, and arm. He should’ve gone to the nearest emergency department to rule out a concussion and make sure his wounds were clean and didn’t need stitches. However, he was afraid to go to the ER because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Luckily, a CT scan a few days later didn’t reveal any damage but it’s an important reminder that at this time of uncertainty, we can’t ignore our bodies and delay getting care. Get immediate medical attention if you are experiencing chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, intense headaches, prolonged nausea, and abdominal pain. Also seek medical treatment if you have the symptoms of COVID-19: fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath.
Keeping Chronic Conditions in Check
It’s important to seek emergency care when needed but it’s equally important to continue to treat and manage any chronic conditions you may have, like diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or asthma, among others.
If you take maintenance medication to manage your disease, such as insulin, beta blockers, or ACE inhibitors, it is very important to continue taking your medication. It’s dangerous to stop taking them, so contact your physician to order refills or to discuss options if you’ve recently lost your insurance and are unable to pay for your medications.
Most doctors are still seeing patients, either in person with precautions or via telehealth video visits. Let your doctor know if:
- Anything has changed regarding your health over the past few weeks or months
- You’ve been unable to stick to your daily medication schedule
- You’ve had trouble getting a prescription filled
It’s also safe—and recommended—to get any screening exams recommended by your doctor. Most facilities are still performing mammograms, and your provider may still offer tests like colonoscopies, pap smears, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.
Take Care of Your Mental Health, Too
This crisis has been trying for everyone. For many, it has brought on or increased feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation. Some have turned to alcohol or drugs. Mental health issues can cause medical conditions to develop or worsen, so seeking help is important. Contact your primary care physician, a mental health professional, or call CentraState’s 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 732-780-6023 for help.
In short, delaying needed care can make your condition worse. By avoiding the doctor, you may cause a major health emergency that puts you in the hospital when a quick call or visit to your doctor could’ve treated the condition. Staying home and not receiving medical care won’t save your life. In fact, it could make your life a lot worse.
Maher Youssef, MD, FACP, is Chief of State at CentraState Medical Center. He is board-certified in internal medicine and primary care. He can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.