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5 Doctors You Might Not Usually See — But Should

Each year, there are a few recurring doctor’s appointments you shouldn’t miss. No matter your age or gender, make sure a visit to your primary care provider is in the cards. If you’re a cisgender woman or an intersex or trans person who was assigned female at birth, you should definitely see a gynecologist. 

Yet baseline recommendations don’t always cover all your needs as a patient. We talked to some experts about the types of medical providers you don’t necessarily have to see, but who could help confirm you have a clean bill of health.

Since these health care providers are specialists, always check with your health insurance plan to see whether you’ll need a referral from your PCP for reimbursement. 


Allergist

While 60 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, around 32 million Americans are allergic to food products, like soy and wheat. Despite the massive number of people affected, many don’t seek out allergy diagnoses and self-treat instead. This may lead them in circles trying to treat their symptoms, or trigger overreliance on over-the-counter treatment like allergy pills. 

Food allergies and sensitivities can be especially hard to diagnose and treat. In one study, almost 19 percent of US adults reported they believe they have a food allergy, without a proper diagnosis. Given all the information circulating online from supposed “health gurus” or influencers,  unproven or even disproven remedies for your symptoms may seem especially appealing.

These are all reasons to see an allergist. If you think you might have a pollen or dust allergy, an allergist can figure it out with a simple skin prick test. Food-related allergies can be diagnosed with blood testing or by actually ingesting the food in question, under an allergist’s supervision. 


Endocrinologist

The endocrine system encompasses the glands that produce hormones in the body. Endocrinologists handle anything from thyroid issues and fertility concerns to metabolic disorders and diabetes. 

Consistent blood tests can catch certain signs that would spur a trip to an endocrinologist. In general, if you’re a cisgender woman or an AFAB intersex or trans person experiencing menstrual or weight changes or you’re planning to have children, a trip to the endocrinologist is recommended. 

Seeing an endocrinologist might also be a last resort for any patients trying to figure out a mystery illness. 

“Many of the symptoms of endocrine disorders are nonspecific, like tiredness, weight or skin changes, menstrual irregularities, hair growth or increased thirst and urination, among others, and can easily be mistaken for other conditions or thought of as insignificant,” says Dr. Sheila Perez-Colon, an endocrinologist at Baptist Health South Miami Hospital. 


Urologist

These specialists primarily treat prostate, urinary tract and bladder issues, including kidney stones and different cancers. Urologists are considered the counterpart to gynecologists for cisgender men and assigned male at birth intersex and trans people, and can also treat erectile dysfunction or infertility issues. 

While there’s no recommended annual checkup, depending on your anatomy and family history, you might consider visiting a urologist yearly. Experts also recommend you go whenever you have discomfort, pain or issues in any of the organs or systems that a urologist specializes in. For instance, if you experience recurring urinary tract infections, you might seek out a urologist for a cystoscopy to check for potential underlying issues. 


Gastroenterologist

Many people don’t think about gastroenterologists until the time comes around for recommended colonoscopies, which starts at age 45, depending on your family history of colorectal cancer. Gastroenterologists can look at issues affecting any part of your digestive system. They can treat anything from severe and chronic heartburn to gut health issues, like irritable bowel syndrome. 

Up to 70 million Americans deal with gastrointestinal issues, but many are living undiagnosed, say experts. Adults should consider seeing a gastro once a year, while children might benefit from a visit even six months; consult your primary care physician for guidance on your individual needs. 


Optometrist

Optometrists are different from ophthalmologists in that they can provide routine care and diagnoses, but cannot perform any surgeries meant to correct any conditions they detect. 

If you have a potential medical eye issue, like cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma, your PCP might refer you to an optometrist. Routine visits, such as adult eye exams, will only be covered if you have vision insurance; Routine eye exams are recommended yearly to check your vision acuity, in order to provide updated prescriptions for glasses or contacts. 


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The Paper Gown, a Zocdoc-powered blog, strives to tell stories that help patients feel informed, empowered and understood. Views and opinions expressed on The Paper Gown do not necessarily reflect those of Zocdoc, Inc. Learn more.