Primary Care Physician
A family physician, sometimes called a general practitioner, will treat your common ills such as colds and minor infections. He or she can also serve as a home base for your medical care, sending you to specialists if it’s needed and collecting all your data in one place for future reference.
If you have a chronic condition, such as hypertension or diabetes, you may wish to also have an internist. He is to an adult what a pediatrician is to a child—specifically trained to treat adult diseases. Some internists specialize in geriatric medicine, who focus on the care of older people.
A dermatologist specializes in the treatment of skin, hair, and nails. He or she can conduct an annual full-body skin check to detect skin cancer.
Dentists treat any problems with the teeth and tissues in the mouth, and also provide guidance towards preventing potential oral and dental health issues. See a dentist to have your teeth cleaned twice a year. If you ever develop a cavity or other dental problem, you’ll see a dentist to address the issue. Your dentist will also be the one to assess and fit you for dentures if necessary, and adjust and replace your dentures as needed.
Optometrist or ophthalmologist
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists specialize in the treatment of eyes and problems affecting the eyes. Optometrists have Doctor of Optometry degrees and work in vision care, prescribing corrective lenses when needed. Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, have medical degrees; they are physicians who perform eye surgery and treat eye diseases and injuries. If you just need to have your vision checked, you’ll most likely see an optometrist (although ophthalmologists do also examine eyes and prescribe corrective lenses). If you ever develop a problem with your eyes or vision, you will see or be referred to an ophthalmologist.
Urologists specialize in the medicine of male and female urinary tracts, as well as the male reproductive system.
Gynecologist (women only)
A gynecologist is a doctor specializing in caring for and treating diseases of the female reproductive organs. He or she is the doctor who performs pap smears and regular pelvic exams. Most older women still need a yearly pap smear and pelvic exam. Even though you’re past menopause, you’re still at risk for cervical or vaginal cancer, and if you’re sexually active, you may contract a sexually-transmitted disease (STD).