Urgent care centers have become a popular alternative to emergency rooms for emergency medical services. For example, the five most common diagnoses by medical professionals in walk-in urgent care centers in 2016 were:
- Acute upper respiratory infections
- Acute sinusitis
- Acute pharyngitis
Likewise, walk-in urgent care clinics are popular choices for those who have suffered injuries playing sports, falling at home, or during other accidents. Urgent care clinics can diagnose and treat fractures, cuts, minor burns, sprains, and strains.
However, many patients are unaware that walk-in urgent care centers also provide preventative care. Here are a few of the preventative services offered by urgent care centers:
2020 has reminded many patients of the immeasurable value of immunizations. Although vaccines for COVID-19 will probably not become widely available until 2021, vaccines for many other diseases are available to help your body build an immune response that can prevent infection. Some of the most dangerous diseases that can be prevented with vaccines include:
- Influenza: The flu is a highly contagious virus that can cause permanent respiratory damage or death in vulnerable populations. In a typical year, tens of thousands of Americans die from influenza.
- Polio: Polio is caused by a virus that can infect the brain and spinal cord leading to permanent paralysis. The polio vaccine has led to the nearly complete eradication of polio.
- Measles: The measles virus can lead to swelling of the brain, which can require hospitalization or even cause death. The measles vaccine has cut the annual number of measles cases in the U.S. from about half a million to a few hundred.
- Mumps: Mumps is a highly contagious disease that can cause meningitis or encephalitis. The mumps vaccine has successfully cut the number of infections in the U.S. by 99%.
Most insurance plans cover annual physical examinations because insurance companies understand the value of preventative care. An annual physical examination can catch medical issues before they become acute. For example, during a physical exam at a walk-in urgent care clinic, a medical professional will check:
- Blood pressure: Hypertension can lead to stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. By measuring and controlling blood pressure, you could significantly extend your life.
- Weight: Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and depression. During a physical examination, your doctor can recommend steps you can take if your weight is unhealthy.
- Skin: Melanoma and other skin cancers are the most common forms of cancer. During a physical examination, a physician can examine any skin lesions for signs of cancer.
- Lungs: Lung disease is the fourth most common cause of death in the U.S. Examination of the lungs during a physical can reveal signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, and other forms of lung disease.
- Heart: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for adult Americans. Heart arrhythmia and other chronic heart problems can be diagnosed during an annual examination.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can be fatal if not controlled. Diabetes is an endocrine disorder that occurs when the body does not produce or use the hormone insulin properly. Diabetes can take two different forms:
- Type I: Type I diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone that signals the liver to pull glucose from the blood. When the body does not produce enough insulin, the blood sugar levels remain too high and can endanger the diabetic’s health.
- Type II: Type II diabetes occurs when the body produces insulin, but the endocrine system no longer responds to it. The result is exactly the same as in Type I diabetes — the liver does not pull glucose out of the blood. The difference is that Type II diabetes occurs when the body becomes insulin-resistant, often due to obesity, lack of exercise, or poor diet.
In either case, diabetics are at higher risk of kidney disease, stroke, heart disease, nerve damage, and damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. However, if diagnosed at a walk-in urgent care, someone with diabetes can manage their diabetes and substantially reduce the risks of these serious complications.
Many preventative medical treatments begin with a diagnostic test. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, testing has been one of the most important tools available to slow the spread of the virus. However, even without a pandemic, many conditions can be treated or managed after diagnosis through a laboratory test. Some examples include:
- High cholesterol: Blood serum cholesterol levels can predict the risk of arteriosclerosis — a hardening of the arteries that can lead to a heart attack.
- Triglycerides: Lipids in the blood, like triglycerides, can predict many conditions including diabetes, arteriosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and hypothyroidism.
- Blood count: The levels of the various types of blood cells can indicate potential problems with the liver, kidneys, or immune system.
Obesity is the most widespread preventable health risk among Americans. According to surveys, about 36.5% of Americans are obese and another 32.5% of Americans are overweight. This means that almost 70% of Americans are exposed to all the risks that being overweight brings.
Proper nutrition and portion control, however, can substantially reduce body weight and improve health. As a result, most walk-in urgent care clinics have a nutritionist on staff to help patients find ways to eat healthier.
Preventative services can improve health outcomes by helping patients to get ahead of acute medical problems.