The details that make a difference
By Zia Sherrell
Going to the doctor isn’t exactly most people’s favourite activity. Whether you’re just going for a check-up or have a specific symptom you’re concerned about, seeing a GP is a part of staying healthy, but the doctor-patient relationship is a two-way street.
Rather than simply treating illness when it occurs, what doctors really want is for you to be informed enough to help minimise the risk of health complications.
We spoke to Dr Rhianna McClymont, lead GP at Livi, who has some key pieces of advice to share about what doctors would like their patients to know.
- Focus on prevention for long-term health
You’ve heard the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’, and doctors agree. ‘It’s much better to prevent conditions like diabetes and heart disease occurring than it is to treat them,’ says Dr McClymont.
Prevention also means being serious about health screenings such as smear tests, STIs, diabetes and others, as these can potentially save your life by catching problems early.
And don’t forget about regular vaccinations that protect you from common diseases, like seasonal flu. It’s especially crucial if you travel or have a job that puts you at increased risk.
- Get symptoms checked ASAP
No matter if it’s an unfamiliar ache, pain or swelling, or a reoccurring symptom, you shouldn’t just cross your fingers and hope it goes away.
‘I often hear, “I didn’t want to bother you, doctor,” but if a symptom is concerning you or if it’s been there a while, then it’s best to get it checked out – it’s why we’re here,’ says Dr McClymont.
By using an app like Livi to see a doctor by video, you can have your symptoms checked at home without going to your GP practice, and you can usually get an appointment within minutes of registering. Livi GPs can offer medical advice and the reassurance you need for the majority of symptoms, as well as referring you to see a specialist should you need to see one.
- Don’t always look to antibiotics for the answer
No matter how lousy you feel when you have the flu or another viral infection, antibiotics may not be the solution.
‘It’s important we don’t use antibiotics when they’re not needed – doing so can increase bacterial resistance to them, so they don’t work as well when we really need them to. What’s more, antibiotics can have unpleasant side effects,’ advises Dr McClymont.
- Know your family history
Honest and open communication with your doctor is essential. Many conditions, like eczema, asthma, high cholesterol or certain types of cancers, run in families so if your parents or siblings are affected by something, you may have a higher chance of developing it too.
‘It may be uncomfortable to talk to your parents or family members about health, but knowing their medical history can make you more aware of your potential future risks,’ says Dr McClymont.
‘Giving detailed information about your symptoms is also important. Take note of when a new symptom appears rather than trying to remember later. And be specific – for example, the exact time of day a headache appears, or if abdominal pain is one or both sides. The more information you have, the better,’ says Dr McClymont.
- Prioritise your mental wellness
If you’re proactive about getting physical symptoms checked out, don’t forget to seek help or advice for mental health symptoms, too. Doctors genuinely care about your wellbeing, and mental health is just as important as physical; it can even have an impact on physical symptoms.
‘Anxiety, for instance, can cause palpitations, shortness of breath or dizziness, and depression can augment pain,’ advises Dr McClymont.
If you suspect that you’re depressed or have experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety, you can speak to a Livi GP who can help you to better understand your problems as well as giving you advice and support on how to deal with things that today feel difficult.
- Don’t be shy
Whether it’s a cervical cancer screening, a prostate exam or a discussion about poo, there’s nothing too intimate, awkward or embarrassing for a doctor or nurse – they’ve seen it all before.
‘I’ve lost count of the number of times a patient has apologised to me that she hasn’t trimmed her pubic hair. This is a classic example of something that would never even occur to me,’ says Dr McClymont.
The truth is, doctors don’t care if you haven’t shaved your legs or you have smelly feet. They just want to give you a diagnosis, and potentially help save your life.
To see a GP by video at a time that suits you, download the Livi app from the App Store or Google Play. Appointments cost £29, which includes medical advice, prescriptions and referrals – find out more