Sometimes called general practitioners, primary care physicians treat an array of common, chronic, and acute illnesses. Primary care doctors treat everything from sore throats to heart conditions, although some conditions may warrant a referral to a specialist. A patient diagnosed with congestive heart disease (CHF), for instance, may be referred to a cardiologist for evaluation at the time of initial diagnosis. However, a primary care physician can likely manage most chronic stable CHF patients over the long term.
Other common ailments treated by primary care doctors include thyroid disease, arthritis, depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Primary care doctors also keep track of your vaccination status, and provide other types of preventive care, such as age appropriate health maintenance practices. For example, middle-aged men may expect to have regular screening tests for prostate cancer. Similarly, all persons of average risk for colon cancer should be referred for colon cancer screening beginning at age 50.
Beginning at around 35 years of age, men should also be screened for high cholesterol. Your physician will typically recommend that you have your blood lipid profile assessed annually. Your primary care physician will ideally serve as a home base for your medical care, referring you to specialists as needed, and keeping your health records in one place for future reference. Men and boys should have a physical checkup at least once a year.
If you have a chronic condition, such as hypertension or diabetes, you may wish to see an internist. Also known as internal medicine specialists, internists are to adults as pediatricians are to children. Internists are specifically trained to treat adult diseases.
Dermatologists specialize in the treatment of the skin, hair, and nails. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it is prone to common problems such as acne in adolescence, and skin cancer later in life. Men of Northern European ancestry tend to be at greater risk of developing skin cancer than men with darker skin. Men who have suffered severe sunburn in childhood or repeated sun exposure resulting in burning should see a dermatologist for skin cancer screening. Your dermatologist can conduct an annual full-body skin check for any unusual moles or other anomalies, which could signal skin cancer.
See a dentist to have your teeth cleaned twice a year. If you develop a cavity or other dental problem, your dentist will be in charge of this care. Modern dentistry is relatively painless and often highly effective at dealing with many complicated problems. Dentists can screen for conditions such as periodontitis or oral cancer. Proper care and cleaning of the teeth reduces the incidence of periodontitis. Untreated periodontitis has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lung infections, making proper tooth care all the more important.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists specialize in the treatment of problems related to the eyes and vision. Optometrists are qualified to screen for a variety of health issues related to the eyes, including glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal diseases. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors qualified to perform a complete spectrum of eye-related services, including delicate eye surgery. If you just need to have your vision checked, you will most likely see an optometrist. If you develop a problem with your eyes that requires surgery, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist.
Urologists specialize in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract. They also specialize in the male reproductive system. Men see urologists for conditions such as an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, or cancers of the urinary tract. Other common concerns addressed by urologists include male infertility and sexual dysfunction problems.