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Regular medical checkup

By Flavia Nassaka

Tests you should think twice before taking

Periodic medical checkup has become common and most doctors you visit recommend doing the so-called wellness tests. Basically, this check up involves visiting a doctor even when you have no symptoms of any disease.-

Dr. Simon Peter Eyoku, a senior Renal Physician at Mulago hospital in Kampala says the habit of most Ugandans waiting until they are critically ill to go the hospital does not only cost patients a lot more money, it also could be  costing the country so many lives. While it’s true that some people can only afford to spend on health when it is inevitable, some who might afford it do not know the exact wellness tests to take.

Eyoku says while it is common for sexually active individuals to do HIV tests periodically, one also needs to monitor their blood pressure through regular testing.

Dr. Elijah Mugoya of Lancent Laboratories Uganda says for wellness purposes, there are common tests that can be done to rule out viral, parasitic, bacterial and allergic infections in just one shot.


Blood Count

The baseline test called a Complete Blood Count (CBC) detects a range of disorders including leukemia because it measures components and features of the blood including platelets, red blood cells and the white blood cells which fight infection.

The doctor recommends the test to be done quarterly. He says when the CBC reveals abnormal increases or decreases in cell counts, they could be an indicator of an underlying medical condition which could be fatal if not attended to early enough. A CBC is one of the cheapest tests offered in private facilities.

Cholesterol test

Another test recommended is the cholesterol test also called a lipid profile.  According to Mugoya this test involves checking for good cholesterol (HDL), bad cholesterol (LDL), total cholesterol and fats. He says unlike other tests whose aim is to diagnose the disease, this one can determine whether one is at risk of getting specific cholesterol complications like heart disease.

“The beauty with this test is that if you discover that you are accumulating bad cholesterol, you do not necessarily need medication. A number of exercises and dietary changes can help,” he says. He explains that an adult should do this test at least once in three years. However, if one is from a lineage prone to cardiovascular disease, it should be done annually.

He says without testing one will not keep track of the body yet fats will continue accumulating on the blood vessels until they build up reducing passage for blood being pumped by the heart.

Prostate test

Dr. Zeriddah Muyinda, a Mulago hospital based radiologist says males above 35 years of age should periodically go for prostate cancer test and women for a cervical cancer test and a mammogram for breast cancer every year. But it should be noted that most tests that require radiation should only be done when there are indications. Under radiology, Muyinda says, tests are usually done basing on several factors including age, gender, geographical factors and risk factor.

She says a clear clinical indication is required as some tests such as Computed Tomography (CT) scan have ionizing radiation which can have adverse effects on the individual. For instance, if a pregnant woman undergoes a CT scan they risk cell damage (genetic mutations). The tests can only be done when there’s trauma, infections, and when they suspect tumors since the scan involves use of X ray images taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images of specific areas of a scanned object, allowing clear viewing of the affected part of the body.

Hepatitis B

Doctors also encourage people to always go for hepatitis B screening since you can have it and never notice it until it weakens the whole body system. The beauty with it, Mugoya says, is that it can be vaccinated against. People in areas with high prevalence for instance in northern and of recent western Uganda should be tested and vaccinated.

Blood pressure

Eyoku says high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke which have become quite common.  He recommends any one above 18 years of age to do a high blood pressure test at least once a year to avoid surprise attacks.

Kidney test

The doctorcompares the human body to a machine that needs service periodically and explains that because the kidney has a vital function of cleansing blood. Its status must be checked as often as after every two years. He adds that kidney failure does not happen suddenly. The body first sends out signals in form of pains which the patient ignores and only turns up when only dialysis or a transplant are the solution.

“From the urine samples, the physician is able to tell that someone is developing the disease, they can be given medication to support the organ and prevent it from shutting down.”

Mugoya cautions that with the influx of money driven medical facilities, people should be conscious of tests some doctors recommend whenever they go for wellness as some will order for unrealistic tests just to make money.

Questionable tests

Mugoya says some tests that are often recommended should be questioned. These include:Cardiac markers such as troponin test should only be done when one has symptoms of heart disease for instance persistent chest pains thought to be as a result of parts of the heart not getting enough blood.  This test can be done twice a year by a person who comes from a family where they have suffered heart attacks before.

Hormonal tests such as thyroid function and fertility tests also do not qualify for wellness.Muyinda says for all tests done, one should always seek to know the limitations and contraindications such that the interventions do not lead to deterioration of other existing conditions. She says patients should ask about the expertise of the physician before allowing them to offer treatment. This way, people will be saved from incurring unnecessary costs and unnecessary interventions as a result of dealing with wrong professionals..

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