Currently in medical care in the United States, there are four main primary care specialties: family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and geriatrics. Internal medicine is primary care for adults, pediatrics is primary care for children and infants, and geriatrics is primary care for seniors. Family medicine, the broadest specialty, is primary care for all ages.
A family medicine physician is a medical ‘home base’ for patients. They treat all ages, all sexes, all organs, and all diseases. They can see every member of the family, from birth through old age. This allows family medicine doctors to develop long-term relationships with their patients and to understand how their patients’ role in the family affects their health. They can provide check-ups, immunizations, screening services, gynecological exams and obstetric care, routine health care, and health counseling. When more specialized care is needed, a family medicine doctor can refer their patients to appropriate specialists. They can become educators and advocates for their patients in the sometimes overwhelming health care system.
As health care changes in this country, family medicine is a growing specialty for families and individuals who are seeking more personalized health care and a more personal relationship with their physician.
What is Adolescent Medicine?
Adolescent medicine specialists are doctors who have specific training and experience in issues that affect teenagers. Their patients may range in age from pre-teens to young adults in their early twenties. Adolescent medicine contains elements of both pediatric medicine and adult (internal) medicine. For example, just like in a pediatrician’s office, an adolescent medicine doctor might ask about problems at school or diagnose a learning disorder. Like an adult’s doctor, an adolescent medicine specialist may provide gynecological care such as pelvic exams. Furthermore, in many offices a teenage patient can schedule and attend appointments without a parent present. Adolescent medicine is a great way for teens to confidently take on greater responsibility for their health as they become adults.
Adolescent medicine specialists treat minor injuries and illnesses that affect people of all ages, such as strep throat or broken bones. However, their focus is on issues specific to the teenage years, including:
Puberty and growth
Teen sexuality, including sexual orientation, sexual violence, and birth control
Mood disorders and mental health
Bullying, peer pressure, and abuse at home or school
Depending on where you live, it may be hard to find adolescent medicine specialists, especially in a smaller town. While they specialize in providing care for teens, other kinds of doctors such as pediatricians and family practitioners can also treat young people. If you need help finding a doctor, your school nurse should be able to connect you with a physician in your area that knows about teenagers.
What is Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine is the specialty that promotes physical fitness and activity while managing, treating, and preventing injuries that happen during exercise or participation in sports. Sports medicine fosters wellness and fitness and works to inhibit injury. A sports medicine specialist may work with professional athletes, school sports teams, individuals who participate in sports on the weekend for fun, or someone who is just beginning to exercise for the first time. Although their main focus is on musculoskeletal function, sports medicine specialists also care for patients’ full medical and nutritional needs as they relate to their active lifestyle.
Some examples of the kinds of injuries and issues that a sports medicine specialist might see in their work include:
Acute sports injuries (sprains, fractures)
Overuse injuries (tendonitis, bursitis)
Head injuries (concussion)
Heat injuries (heat stroke)
Athletes with chronic illness (asthma, diabetes, heart disease) and how their illness is affected by exercise
Nutrition and the use of supplements
Developing a safe exercise plan for obese or sedentary patients
Substance abuse of performance-enhancing drugs
Teaching proper form and technique to reduce the chance of injury
Sports medicine specialists often work closely with orthopedic specialists, and the scope of their work can have some overlap. The main distinction is that orthopedic specialists can perform surgery when it is needed, while sports medicine specialists focus on non-surgical solutions for injuries.
Whether they are the team physicians making sure every professional player is performing safely and at their best, or community specialists getting you back in the game after a sprained ankle, sports medicine doctors are there to make sure you’re in good condition to lead an active life.
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