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Family Medicine FAQ

What is family medicine?

Family physicians provide comprehensive, continuing care for individuals of all ages, both male and female, with a special focus on the family unit. Family physicians provide personalized care for the entire person, considering clinical, social and behavioral aspects that impact a person’s wellness.

Family physicians complete a three-year residency training program and may go on to earn board certification in the specialty of family medicine. All UC Irvine physicians in the Department of Family Medicine are board-certified.

How are family physicians different from other types of physicians?

Family physicians provide care for the whole family, from newborns to the elderly.

Internists, for example, see only adults, while family physicians see patients of all ages.

Family physicians provide personal primary care with a focus on the patient’s well-being. Patients often wish all of the specialists they see would talk with each other and that one physician could provide care that considers the entire spectrum of a patient's needs.

As a result of their coordinated, comprehensive approach to care, family physicians are able to help patients maximize their health and well-being.

How often do I need to see the doctor?

We often recommend an annual physical for patients of all ages. However, depending on your age, your medical conditions and the medications you may be taking, this varies. It is important to ask your doctor for recommendations.

What kind of immunizations do I need?

Recommended immunizations vary by age. National standards change periodically as new vaccines are developed, as well. Be sure to keep an updated immunization card for all members of your family.

Ask your doctor about any changes in recommendations for immunizations for your age group.

How often do I need to get my cholesterol checked?

Your cholesterol is checked with a blood test at your annual physical examination. Cholesterol is important because high levels are a risk factor for heart disease. Testing, performed after a fast of 10 to 12 hours, includes tests of total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol).

Your physician will discuss the testing with you. If you are at low risk for heart disease and your cholesterol levels are normal, you may not need cholesterol testing every year. Check with your physician.

What happens if my cholesterol levels are high?

If your cholesterol levels are elevated and you have other risk factors for heart disease—such as diabetes, hypertension, smoking or a family history of heart disease—your targeted cholesterol level may need to be lower than in those without such risk factors.

A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and an exercise regimen can reduce cholesterol levels. If your levels remain elevated despite dietary changes, you may be a candidate for cholesterol-lowering medications.

I’m concerned about diabetes. What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, fatigue, blurred vision and sores that are slow to heal.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both involve too much blood glucose (or sugar) in the bloodstream, which can lead to serious problems. Treatment depends on the type of diabetes and the severity.

Type 1 diabetes often appears in childhood and insulin is required for survival. Type 2, the most common, is preventable. Weight and diet are the biggest factors contributing to the onset of type 2 diabetes.

My friend gets a Pap test once every three years. I receive one every year. Why is this?

New guidelines for Pap smear testing, which screens for cervical cancer, were established in 2009. The first Pap smear is done at age 21. Screening continues until 65 to 70 years of age, depending on a woman’s risk factors. Pap smears may be done every one to three years, depending on the outcome of prior Pap smears and other risk factors. Your physician can provide you with more information on the necessary testing frequency.

What should I do if my child has a high fever?

A temperature of 100.4 or higher is considered a fever.

Keep a thermometer at home and learn how to use it so you can monitor your child's temperature.

If your child is active and eating well, try using Children's Tylenol, Motrin or Advil to get the fever down. Be sure to follow the recommended dosages listed on the bottle.

If your child looks ill, make an appointment to see your doctor.

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