If you're a man, you probably keep your distance from the doctor's office. You're busy. You'll just tough it out. You've got 18 holes of golf to play. Besides, you feel fine, so that rash or open wound or broken leg isn't that big of a deal!
You're not alone. Even men with health insurance and a primary care doctor don't often go in for an office visit, much less for preventative care. Across the nation, women and children make up 80 percent of a family physician's patients, says Jeffry C. Hatcher, D.O., F.A.A.F.P., of Alegent Health Clinic in Benson.
"That's just the way it is," said Dr. Hatcher. "More men might start coming to the doctor if we did a better job of educating them on wellness. We're really good at managing diseases, but we need to tell the guys, if you want to stay well, here are the things you need to do.
Studies show that, in any given year, only 4 percent of men visit a physician compared with 34 percent of women. It really is in men's best interest to see their doctor, said Dr. Hatcher.
"We're not going to be mean, we won't yell at you," said Hatcher. "We're here to support you."
During his 20-plus years in medicine, Dr. Hatcher has made something of a study of what does prompt a man in to see his doctor. See how many of the top five reasons you can guess.
- His wife drags him in. Without your girlfriend, wife or mom nagging you, you're less likely to go the doctor. In fact, if Dr. Hatcher asks a patient how he's doing, his wife might just speak up. "He'll say, ‘I'm fine,'" explained Dr. Hatcher, "and then his wife will say, ‘No you're not, tell the doctor what's wrong.'" Women know what needs to be done - check blood pressure, prostate exam, cholesterol check and listen to your lungs. And if she doesn't go to the appointment, she'll quiz you when you get home. "She's not happy unless all those things are done," noted Dr. Hatcher. "When a guy comes in for a checkup, we review family history, do basic blood work, and go over the tests and certain things that need to be done at certain ages…35, 40, 50."
- He thinks he's going to die. Emotionally, a man is a lone ranger, stewing quietly over this or that ailment until he gets really worried. "If a guy comes in and wants a full workup, but his wife didn't make him come in, all sorts of bells and whistles go off in my head," said Dr. Hatcher. "I have to kind of pull information out of him. Maybe he's got a cough and he's a cigarette smoker, or he has a funky little chest pain and his Dad died at age 40 of a heart attack, or there's unexplained rectal bleeding, things like that." Male menopause can also be an issue. As men age, their testosterone levels fall and they can get depressed or fatigued, but these can be easily fixed by injections, gels or patches.
- He gets injured at work or play. Men get medical care pretty quickly when they get hurt. Whether it's a torn muscle from sliding into third base, back pain from lifting something heavy at work or injuries from a car accident, they'll show up to get some help.
- He doesn't want to work. If a man comes in and says he's tired, stressed or needs time off work, I ask him what's going on at work or home," said Dr. Hatcher. "A guy's self-worth is related to what he does for a living, so when he wants time off, it can point to stress, anxiety, maybe a little depression, or some conflict at work or home." At times, Dr. Hatcher has recommended talking with a pastor, someone at church, or a psychologist, if necessary, to get through a rough spot. Amazingly, he said, it works wonders just to let a patient know that he's not nuts, but he just need a little help sometimes to work out some issues.
- Erectile dysfunction. Almost every man at one time or another will have erectile dysfunction; it's a very common problem. "If it becomes a recurring problem though, it's time to see the doctor. "Men don't have to suffer," said Dr. Hatcher. "That's a big part of being a guy – having sex."
The condition can cause conflicts in a marriage, too. "The wife thinks he doesn't love her or desire her anymore, but he says, ‘I still love her, I just can't do it,'" says Dr. Hatcher. A doctor can help because the condition might be caused by medication, diabetes, cholesterol or thyroid issues. Dr. Hatcher notes that Viagra did a great service to men with consumer advertising. "When men started to realize it wasn't just them, they felt more like talking about it."