Visiting a doctor amid pandemic: If symptoms persist, don’t hesitate

The widespread panic and fear generated by COVID-19 have brought the world to a grinding halt with authorities imposing quarantine protocols.  

The pandemic has caused many Filipinos to hesitate to visit doctors’ clinics primarily due to the fear of contracting the virus outside their homes. Medical practitioners are now conducting teleconsultations or virtual consultations, allowing patients to have access to doctors through phone or video calls to mitigate the situation.

Some hospitals have already opened outpatient clinics but on an appointment basis only, with the patients required to accomplish health declaration forms.

While the spread of COVID-19 currently dominates health concerns, Filipinos should not ignore their pre-existing health conditions or non-COVID-19 symptoms, as this can put patients at enormous health risk. Among health conditions that must be paid close attention to are diabetes and hypertension.

Studies have shown an increasing prevalence of diabetes and hypertension with nearly four million cases of diabetes recorded in the Philippines as of May 2020, while hypertension is the leading preventable cause of premature death worldwide.  The emergence of COVID-19 leaves these patients vulnerable to the virus. 

“When seeing a doctor, the risks and benefits must be considered. Whatever circumstances we’re in, it doesn’t change the fact that when symptoms persist, people shouldn’t hesitate to consult a doctor, be it on-site or through virtual consultations,” said Dr. Alex Junia, Cardiologist at the Perpetual Succour Hospital and Past President of the Philippine Heart Association. 

“Early medical intervention saves lives,” the doctor emphasized.

Among the early warning signs of diabetes emergencies that should not be ignored are extreme thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, unplanned weight loss, hunger, fatigue, irritable behavior, blurred vision, slow-healing wounds, skin that itches, or is dry and/or yeast infections. 

However, not all symptoms of diabetes are the same. According to  Dr. Grace De los Santos, Diabetologist at the Metropolitan Medical Center and President of  Diabetes Philippines, “Type 1 diabetes symptoms may also include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, while Type 2 diabetes symptoms may include shortness of breath, pain or numbness in the extremities.”

Likewise, the symptoms of hypertension must also be discussed with doctors for proper medical attention. While people with high blood pressure often have unnoticeable symptoms, there are instances when the blood pressure is alarmingly elevated that the patient may experience the following: headache, dizziness, and blurred vision.

Some of the symptoms may resemble other medical conditions, so it is best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.

“There is a variety of treatment and management options for patients with diabetes and hypertension. The decision on which medications to opt for to achieve target blood sugar levels and to lower the blood pressure depends on many factors including patient’s medical history and other health problems a patient may have. This is why it is crucial to seek and consult a doctor to discuss the best treatment plan for one’s condition,” Dr. Greta Cortez, Boehringer Ingelheim Philippines Inc.  Head of Medicine, Human Pharma, explained.

To alleviate concerns about visiting the doctor for consultation, patients are advised to take safety precautions such as having temperatures checked, wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and making a habit of bringing alcohol for sanitation and disinfection.

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