Apple a Day Doesn't Always Keep Doctor Away

Skin and joint problems lead patients to doctors offices most often

(RxWiki News) Cancer is a major health issue. So is heart disease. Although they are serious problems, these issues aren't the main reasons leading patients to the doctor's office.

Back pain, joint disorders and skin issues were the main health problems that caused patients to visit their doctors, according to a recently published study.

The findings identify health issues beyond commonly recognized problems such as diabetes and cancer and may lead to more efficiently preventing the conditions before they start, researchers said.

"Ask your doctor about any health concerns."

Researchers, led by Jennifer Sauver, PhD, MPH, from the Division of Epidemiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., looked through medical records of more than 140,000 residents in Olmsted County, Minn., who visited their doctors for various diseases between January 2005 and December 2009.

The physicians were associated with Mayo Clinic, Olmsted County and Olmsted Medical Center. Researchers tracked what patients were diagnosed with and categorized them into disease groups.

They found that the top disease groups were:

  • Skin disorders
  • Osteoarthritis/joint disorders
  • Back problems
  • Cholesterol problems
  • Upper respiratory conditions (not including asthma)
  • Anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder
  • Chronic neurologic disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches/migraine
  • Diabetes

Skin disorders accounted for almost 43 percent of the doctors' visits, followed by osteoarthritis and joint disorders at about 34 percent and back problems at about 24 percent.

The skin disorders category included 19 different skin problems with no skin disorder more prevalent than another.

"Finding that skin and back problems are major drivers of healthcare utilization affirms the importance of moving beyond the commonly recognized health care priorities such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer," researchers wrote in their report.

"Our findings highlight opportunities to improve healthcare and decrease costs related to common non-acute conditions as we move forward through the changing health care landscape."

Researchers also found that 10 of the 15 most common disease groups occurred more frequently in women than men across all age groups.

For men, the most common problems include hypertension, diabetes and troubles breaking down fat, called lipid metabolism.

The number of people infected with seven of the top 10 most common disease groups increased as people aged, researchers said. And the numbers of people infected varied across ethnic groups.

Researchers noted that medical records may have labeled some of the problems incorrectly, which might skew results. Also, some patients may not have correctly been diagnosed for health issues.

In addition, more than a fifth of the population included in the study reside or work in the medical district, which might make them more likely to go to the doctor more often than other populations.

The study was published in the January 2013 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The Rochester Epidemiology Project and the Mayo Clinic Center for Translational Science Activities supported the study.

Review Date: 
January 19, 2013