Australia has one of the world’s most enviable health systems, and the majority of us have regular access to a GP or healthcare provider. In fact, most people see a doctor up to twelve times every year.
However there is one group of Aussies who buck this trend, with worrying results. Research from the Australian Institute of Health has recently revealed that men are far less likely to see a doctor, when compared to women.
Men's health impacts the whole family. CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons.
Startlingly, this research also highlighted that Australian men aged between 25 and 65, are dying five years earlier than their female counterparts. These early deaths are often due to preventable conditions.
“We know that some men avoid seeing a doctor until their medical problems can no longer be ignored,” says Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor. “Male patients often request an after-hours GP for five similar reasons.”
1. Muscular and joint injuries
It’s common for male patients to experience sprains and strains, impacting their muscles or joints. Muscular pain is often the result of sporting injuries or improper lifting practices.
“Depending on their severity, muscular and joint injuries can impair a patient’s quality of life,” says Dr Harvey. “Symptoms may include pain, tenderness, swelling and limited mobility.”
When called after-hours, doctors may be required to assess the severity of an injury and determine whether the issue requires escalation. In some cases, X-rays and further medical investigation may be necessary.
“The acronym RICE is a helpful treatment regime for sprains. Rest the joint, ice the swelling, compress the injury and elevate the joint,” says Dr Harvey. “Anti-inflammatories can also help get patients back on their feet sooner.”
2. Minor trauma
“House call doctors are often phoned to treat male patients who have suffered minor traumas,” says Dr Harvey. “These traumas may include anything from a small cut sustained during yard work, to more serious workplace injuries.”
Cuts and lacerations of the skin must be treated quickly to avoid infection, and to promote healing as soon as possible. Male patients should be especially careful to seek medical assistance for traumas impacting the face or hands, as these can leave painful scars if not treated effectively.
After-hours GPs are called upon to treat everything from 'man flu' to minor traumas. CREDIT: House Call Doctor.
3. Coughs and colds
Coughs and colds can readily impact any member of the family, although men are often resistant to seeking medical care for these more common conditions. ‘Man flu’ can present in three main forms:
Firstly, upper respiratory tract infections may involve a fever, sore throat, dry cough and runny or blocked nose. Lower respiratory tract infections impact the lungs, and may include bronchitis or pneumonia. Lastly, viral infections may need to be treated with antibiotics, along with plenty of rest and fluids.
“Less than 40% of House Call Doctor’s patients are male, but even common coughs and colds may require medical intervention,” says Dr Harvey. “This is especially true for elderly male patients, who may be vulnerable to further complications if a respiratory infection remains untreated.”
4. Headaches and migraines
The majority of headaches are benign and can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. However, migraines can be far more debilitating as they involve significant pain and nausea.
“Men are more likely than women to experience cluster headaches, which feel like intense burning around one eye,” says Dr Harvey. “Cluster headaches can recur for several weeks, and are often related to stress or allergies.”
Cluster headaches often involve short 'bursts' of pain, which are recurring. CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons.
In extreme cases, headaches can be considered the first signs of more dangerous conditions, such as meningitis or brain hemorrhages. For this reason, it’s important that male patients see a doctor if headaches persist.
5. Vomiting and diarrhea (Gastroenteritis)
Better known as ‘gastro,’ infections or viruses in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to painful vomiting, cramping and diarrhea. Gastroenteritis is often passed from one family member to another, with male patients being no exception.
Patients suffering from gastroenteritis should stay at home to rest, rehydrate and prevent the spread of infection. For this reason, a house call doctor is especially useful and can prescribe medication to limit the symptoms. Healthy male patients will often see gastro symptoms dissipate within 24 – 48 hours.
“A doctor’s assessment may also be required to rule out other conditions which cause abdominal pain,” says Dr Harvey. “Extreme examples of this include appendicitis, which does require surgery for treatment.”
If you or a man in your life needs after-hours medical care, phone House Call Doctor on 13 55 66. To check whether this service is available in your area, visit the website. In an Emergency, always phone 000 and ask for Ambulance, Police or Fire.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.