Contra Costa health care providers to offer advice
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Sun, Nov. 02, 2003
By Dr. William Walker
Not long ago, an elderly patient came to my office with a newspaper article about a disease called polymyalgia rheumatica. This inflammatory illness generally affects people over 50 and causes moderate to severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders and hips. The stiffness is most noticeable in the morning and can be associated with fever, weight loss and fatigue.
This woman was having pain in her upper back and shoulder areas and wondered, after reading the article, if her aches and pains might be more serious than she had thought.
I hadn't seen a case of polymyalgia rheumatica in many years, and my initial thought was that her neck pain was probably the type we all suffer from time to time. Neck pain that is not caused by a serious injury is relatively common and usually not dangerous.
After further discussion, a physical examination and laboratory tests, however, she turned out to be right. She not only received treatment that gave her pain relief, but we also began monitoring her for eye complications that can cause blindness. Reading the newspaper article prompted her to seek medical attention earlier than she otherwise might have, which may prevent complications of her illness.
When patients come to their medical appointments armed with health information they have read in a newspaper or magazine or have heard on the radio or television, they generally are more involved in their health care. They aren't coming just to tell their doctor what's wrong or just to hear what they should do to get better.
They bring information that enables them to ask informed questions and become more involved in decisions. I think this leads to better health.
It is my pleasure, therefore, to introduce this column by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department.
Every other week in the Times, one of our physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurse practitioners or other licensed professionals will offer health information and advice on a variety of topics. We hope "Healthy Outlook" will give you information about your health that will help you get the most out of your visits to your doctor and other interactions with health care providers.
The column, under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Daniels, will cover illness prevention, specific diseases such as asthma and diabetes, seasonal maladies such as flu and allergies, public health issues such as tuberculosis and SARS, local problems such as pollution and violence, and much more. In addition to topics selected by our staff, we plan to address questions raised by our readers.
Contra Costa Health Services has many experienced providers -- at the Regional Medical Center in Martinez, at our 10 health centers, in the public health division, at our mental health clinics, in our alcohol and drug programs, in the environmental health division and in our other health programs.
Working with their patients and clients, our providers encounter a wide variety of health problems each day. We hope this column will be the beginning of a long, trusting relationship between you, our readers, and our health professionals.
Dr. Walker, who practices family medicine, is the director of Contra Costa Health Services and the county's health officer. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.