Health / Expert Advice

The 5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Doctor in Your 20s

From your dermatologist to your OBGYN.

Your 20s are an interesting time full of transition, physically and mentally. You’re still enjoying a pretty fast metabolism and a young, fit body that can handle a variety of fun and challenging workouts. So, it’s likely easier now than ever to stay in shape and feel healthy. But beyond eating healthy and exercising, how much do you really know about your health? If you haven’t stopped by your doctor’s office in a few years, it’s time to schedule that check-up.

Many 20-somethings forgo seeing a general practitioner or a specialist because they consider themselves healthy overall. This is probably true. But, preventing illnesses or conditions before you arrive to your 30s is a vital measure that ensures lifelong prosperity and wellness. To ensure that you’re receiving the right hands-on attention and advice, you shouldn’t simply come to an appointment and expect your doctor to provide all the information. Rather, you should ask the right questions about your lifestyle.

From determining the root cause of those incessant breakouts to understanding what type of birth control is best for your chemical makeup, we asked three doctors to explain the most important discussions to have before you turn the big 3-0.

Why do I need to see my doctor—and specialists—every year?

It might seem like a no-brainer—but plenty of 20-somethings don’t understand the value of seeing a doctor. So, ask your medical professional to sell his or herself. Why should you visit your OB-GYN every year? Or, your dentist? How about your dermatologist? Ask what they are checking for, what you should be conscious of, and what preventive measures you’re taking—together—to maintain and improve your health. This way, you’ll be more keen to make those appointments.

For women and men, building this repertoire and trust in your younger years may create the type of dynamic that will carry you through all of your milestones. As Dr. Sarah Bedell, an OB-GYN in Miami explains—from an OB-GYN perspective—the professional who cares for your feminine health in your 20s very well might be the same that delivers your child in your 30s if you choose to get pregnant. “Use it as an opportunity to take control of your health. Become comfortable with a physician that you will know and trust throughout your lifetime,” she says.

What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

Though often overlooked and undervalued, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. As Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross explains, it all usually starts with small, painless spots. You might not even raise an eyebrow to these rashes or bumps since they aren’t uncomfortable, itchy, or irritating. But, if it is something to raise an eyebrow about, seeing a doc ASAP could save your life. “People, who are unaware of the warning signs, often leave the spot unexamined. [This] can allow cancer to spread and become more difficult to treat.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It is rare—only accounting for two percent of all skin cancers. [However] it is very aggressive and responsible for most skin cancer deaths,” he continues. “Knowing the signs and symptoms of skin cancer can increase your ability to identify suspicious spots and potentially catch skin cancer earlier.” Talk to your dermatologist about how to self-screen regularly. And be sure to get an annual scan of your skin by a professional.

Have I dealt with my anxieties?

Seeing a mental health professional isn’t for everyone. But, understanding your mental health is just as important as your physical state of being. Diving into past experience, current angsts, or internal troubles is a difficult task for most people. However, Psychoanalyst and Psychologist Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D. says that having a heightened self-awareness that allows you to understand the benefit of feeling will not only make you happier but also more likely to build loving relationships.

“I am finding that people who are dating—and genuinely want relationships, including long-term love, marriage, and family at some point in their lives—are avoiding the anxieties that come with allowing someone else to become significant,” he explains. He credits this to the fear of becoming vulnerable and intimate with our emotions when that act itself could make or break our success in romantic wanderings. “We need to learn to live with the actual interpersonal anxieties that we must navigate if we are going to allow someone else—and a relationship—to matte,” he adds. Once you work through these, you’re better prepared to be in a healthy union, instead of a destructive or toxic one.

What is the best birth control for me?

For women, taking control of your reproductive health and investing in the know-how that allows you to fully enjoy the lifestyle of your choice is non-negotiable. One aspect is understanding and testing modern birth control methods. As Dr.Bedell explains, trends regarding hormonal and non-hormonal birth control options have shifted in the last ten years. This means that the method that your mom or aunt used might not be the only option you have to prevent pregnancy.

Dr. Bedell recommends having a candid, open, and frank conversation with your trusted OB-GYN. Go through any reactions you’ve had from previous prescriptions or contraceptives in the past. Some women in their 20s give up on birth control simply because they haven’t been able to find a formula that works for them. However, options like a copper IUD that doesn’t contain hormones might be a better match to your body. When in doubt, explore what is available to ensure that you have control over your family planning and future.

What is causing my acne?

Even if you’ve been waking up with unfortunate and cumbersome zits since you were a teenager, as you tread through your twenties, it’s time to get to the bottom of your breakouts. Dr. Gross explains that acne can be triggered by a number of factors. These include stress, hormonal changes, products with pore-clogging ingredients, your diet—and the list goes on. Dealing and treating these zits is often a trial-and-error process. It’s one that will not only help to alleviate these symptoms but boost your confidence, too.

“Once you identify the root of the problem, it will be much easier to develop an effective treatment plan. Treatment for hormonal acne looks very different than treatment for product acne,” he continues. “Until you uncover the exact cause of your acne, step away from drying spot treatments and overusing salicylic acid. Over-drying skin can actually result in more breakouts.” Track your reactions to foods, products, and environments. Plus, make sure to chat with a trusted dermatologist to help guide you through the right steps.

Your 20s are an exciting time and you’re probably feeling pretty good physically. But that’s no reason to skip those doctor appointments. Put in the time to find practitioners who work best for you and get comfortable asking them the tough questions. This will ensure that you feel good and healthy long past this decade.

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