Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Having a Handle on Your Own Health

I tend to be the person in my family that everyone goes to when they have a problem. I think every family has one of these. Maybe it’s because I’m the only girl with two brothers, or maybe I just tend to be that way – the kind of person who pays attention to things like when someone’s birthday is, or which doctor to recommend. I also tend to be the person with the information – why dial 411, when I can give you the number for free?

I remember my dad calling me one afternoon out of the blue and asking me to make him an eye appointment (because, of course, I had the eye doctor’s number). My dad wore glasses for longer than I’d been alive, so this wasn’t so unusual. The rest of the conversation, though, was a little more out of the ordinary.

“Why? Isn’t your prescription strong enough?” I asked.

“Yeah, I think it’s okay. But my peripheral vision just went out.” You’d think that response would be more panicked or something, but he didn’t seem to see anything wrong with this.

“What do you mean, it went out?” I was less calm about the situation.

“It went out. I can’t see anything out of the sides, just straight ahead.”

I didn’t want to scare him by screaming, “You need an emergency room, not an eye doctor!” But I knew enough about stroke symptoms to know what he was experiencing was most likely not optical.

Traditionally, most people left their health information in the hands of their doctors. After all, they went to school and practiced for many years and must know more about what may or may not be going on in our bodies. And this is true to an extent. But the truth is, it helps to know what symptoms might be associated with a serious situation. Most people have warnings of heart trouble or any myriad of things well before the condition is life threatening, and they ignore these “aches and pains” because they don’t feel severe, or they go away, or they just don’t associate them with something life-threatening.

I’m not advocating people to go ahead and doctor themselves. Certainly, a trusted physician is the best person to see with regards to your health. But, I do strongly believe in educating yourself enough to know your body, and understand the recommendations that your doctor might give you.

Special thanks to Health Yahoo for sponsoring this post.

1 comment:

Peter Dudley said...

How do you balance ownership of your own health against the natural aches and pains of growing older? You don't want to ignore an ache that might be linked to something worse, but you also don't want to go running to the doctor every time your knees creak and crackle when you stand up. Especially when health care now costs so darned much.