Internal Medicine Norfolk
Internal medicine is the branch of healthcare that focuses on keeping adults healthy. A physician of internal medicine, called an internist, is dedicated to the health and well-being of adults. In many ways, you can think of an internist as your primary doctor.
For most people, your internist will be your primary healthcare provider.
Internal Medicine vs. Family Doctor
Many patients wonder whether an internist is the same thing as a family doctor or general practitioner. From the practical perspective of patients, these two fields are so similar that they may as well be one. But there are some subtle differences:
- A focus on adult care: An internist will focus only on adult patients. A family doctor will be able to treat teens, toddlers, and everything in between.
- Lab work: Internists are specially trained to incorporate lab work into their medical practice. This means your internist will be able to quickly run tests (such as blood work) and use the results to help guide your care.
What Does Internal Medicine Cover?
Internal medicine is a healthcare specialty that offers comprehensive care for adults. Everything you might think of as something you’d see a “family doctor” for is something you’d also see your internist for.
In general, you can see your internist for the following reasons:
- Routine care for adults
- Well checks or annual exams
- Preventative screenings and vaccinations
- Diagnose chronic conditions
- Manage multiple chronic conditions
- Cholesterol screening and treatment
- Men’s health screenings and care
- Women’s health screenings and care
When Should You See Your Internist?
Because internists specialize in adult care, you will usually not start seeing an internal medicine specialist until you are at least 18. If you’re over that age, you can begin seeing an internist at any point.
You should typically see an internist as often as you would see any other primary care provider. For many patients, this might mean scheduling a wellness exam once a year. For others, more frequent appointments may be necessary. How often you see your internist will likely depend on a variety of factors, including your overall health, your medical history, and your age.
In general, the following guidelines can be used as a rule of thumb:
- If you have no immediate health concerns: You should be able to see your internist once a year for an annual physical. (In some cases, you may only need a physical every three years, especially if you’re under the age of 50–but always follow your doctor’s recommendations.) If you have health concerns or conditions that require more regular monitoring, your internist may recommend more frequent visits.
- If you have a health concern: You can schedule an appointment with your internist right away. For example, if you’ve had a sore throat for a few days, you may want to schedule an appointment for a strep test. An internist is able to see patients for acute and routine illness as well as for long term concerns.
If you aren’t sure how often you should see your internist, talk to your primary care provider and see what they recommend.
Benefits of Primary Care
For most patients, your internist will become your primary care provider. When people think of a “family doctor” or “their doctor,” this is what they mean. A primary care physician is a doctor that takes care of your basic, routine, and non-specialized medical needs. When you need more specific care, your primary care doctor can refer you to the specialists you need. As a result, your primary care doctor is also the physician you’re most likely to have a comprehensive and long term healthcare relationship with.
The better your primary care doctor knows you and your medical history, the more likely you are to receive prompt, effective treatment when you need it.
There are significant and long term benefits to having a primary care physician and to seeing that primary care physician on a regular basis. Those benefits include:
- Early detection of problems: Early symptoms of serious illnesses or conditions can often be subtle. Because you see your internist on a regular basis, they will have a better idea of what your baseline health status looks like. This makes it easier to detect any deviations from that baseline. Often, early detection means more effective treatment options.
- Better management of chronic issues: Whether it’s asthma, high blood pressure, or fibromyalgia, chronic conditions can often be difficult to manage without medical intervention. Your primary care physician can help you monitor and treat many such conditions, leading to more effective management of your symptoms in the long run.
- Improved health and wellness: Your internist can provide you with information about healthy lifestyle choices. If you want to eat a better diet or start exercising, your internist can show you how to do that. These healthy lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on your long-term health and wellness.
- Preventative medicine: The best way to treat an illness or condition is to avoid getting it in the first place! Your internist can help you practice this prevention. For example, your internist can provide you with flu vaccines or Covid-19 boosters.
- Mental health screenings: Your internist will also be able to help you with mental health and wellness screenings. This can help detect issues such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD. Identifying these issues can provide you with access to treatment options such as medication.
Your internist will also be able to provide you with referrals for continued or specialized care. For example, if you often wake up feeling tired, your internist can refer you to a sleep study specialist to detect sleep apnea. Talk to your internist today!
Day to Day Wellness and Preventative Care
There is much your internist can do to help prevent you from becoming ill in the first place. Some of that preventive care will include the following:
- Vaccinations and immunizations: Vaccines are one of the most powerful and potent medical therapies ever invented–because they can prevent you from getting sick. While we mostly think of vaccinations as an event from childhood, the reality is that you need vaccines as an adult, including for influenza (the so-called Flu Shot) and COVID-19.
- Diet and lifestyle: As with your wellness visits, preventative care will sometimes touch on ways to manage your diet and lifestyle to optimize your health. This could include changing your diet to help manage cardiovascular disease or diabetes, for example.
What Does an Internist Treat – At a Glance
You can see your internist for the following conditions:
- Cold and flu
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Vascular disease
- And more
Start Seeing Your Doctor Today
Contact YMC today to schedule an appointment with an internist today.
For appointments 402-316-4606
Charles Harper, M.D. – Board Certified
Alan Spanel, M.D. – Board Certified
Kelly, Jueden, CNP
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