TODAY   |  March 25, 2014

Healthy sense: When is it time to see the doctor?

Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician, and Julie Bain, health director at Ladies’ Home Journal, reveal how to troubleshoot symptoms, possibly saving you a visit to the emergency room.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> some folks visit the doctors office for every ache and pain. others avoid it like the plague. knowing how to troubleshoot your symptoms could be a difference between a trip to the emergency room or riding it out at home. dr. sampson davis is an emergency room physician. and julie bain is the health director at ladies home journal . good to see you guys.

>> good to be here.

>> it's important to target specific health issues. but it's really not easy. what's the benchmark, doc, for emergency room visits?

>> very, very tough question. i always say, if you feel like you have an emergency, go to the e.r. but there's simple things you can do, call urgent care . cough, sneezing, itchy rash, things like that you probably can wait to see a physician. it's a good idea, too, to call your private physician and say is this something you can see me right away for? or should i go to the e.r.? and if you do go to the e.r., follow up with your primary care doctor.

>> we'll look at three main areas of hearing, vision, and abdominal issues. i hear that as people get older, they suffer hearing loss .

>> it's super common in people, especially over 65. but sudden hearing loss can be a problem. and a lot of people blow it off and don't go to the doctor because they think it's earwax or allergies. but they should.

>> there's a test?

>> yes, there's a test.

>> okay. we're going to do this thing now, you and i? here we go. we're going to play something.

>> you should hear that buzzing sound.

>> yeah.

>> that's the audiogram. these buzzer sounds are played at different frequency with different intensity. and the lower pitch you hear it, that means your hearing is fine. what's concerning if you don't hear the lower pitch.

>> i notice you've got this tuning fork . what's that used for?

>> once we know there may be a hearing deficit, we do a study to see if it's something with the nerve or just with the transmission of sound through the ear. basically, take this tuning fork which vibrates, strike it against the hand pretty hard and put it against the table. do you hear that vibration.

>> yeah.

>> now i have to do what we call a line test. so you're going to hear this normally because you're hearing should be fine. i'm going to put this in the middle of your forehead and it should be equal. do you hear the sounds.

>> yeah, i hear the sound, but now i've got a headache.

>> now, i want you to take your finger, your pointer finger and put it in one of your ears. you're going to hear this louder on one side of your -- i'm going to strike this, okay, here we go. do you hear it louder in this ear?

>> yeah.

>> we created a blockage. once we know that, we do the last test, the back of your ear, and you feel the vibration. and you should hear it here normally.

>> yeah, i do. willie's got the vision test .

>> i was enjoying that a little too much.

>> good vibrations.

>> let me ask you both a question, is it a matter of time before all of us need glasses at some point in our lives?

>> yeah. most people in their 40s, have trouble reading close up. there are glasses and contacts for that. but most people eventually lose up close.

>> sometimes you feel your vision getting a little bit blurred.

>> if you lose your vision suddenly or becomes blurred, that's an emergency, call your ophthalmologist, your eye doctor , go to the e.r. it could be something with the vessels to the eyes, could be a tumor. but you want to make sure you investigate if you lose your eyesight suddenly.

>> see the eye chart over here. i think my eyes are pretty good. is this about the right distance?

>> yeah, 20 feet. the eye chart . cover one eye.

>> okay.

>> try to read the line closest to the bottom.

>> closest to the bottom. pez, toz.

>> your eyesight is pretty good. i don't see that far.

>> you're at 20/10 based upon that. that means your vision is superb. 2020 means you're 20 feet away and that's normal vision and you can read at 20 feet away you can read -- 20/40, then your eyesight would be a bit compromised.

>> got ya.

>> okay.

>> abdominal issues. good to see you both. how do you localize the pain?

>> now, your cavity is divided in four kwquadrants. right upper quadrant. if you travel to your right upper quadrant, your gallbladder.

>> okay.

>> your right lower is your appendix.

>> that's where my appendix scar is right there.

>> how do you figure out what's going on?

>> you would feel pain in that right lower side. and the left lower side as we get older, we may develop pain there. if that develops and becomes severe.

>> diarrhea, how do you know if it's food poisoning .

>> honey, you know.

>> how do you know if it's food poisoning or something else.

>> if you have the severe onset, and sometimes vomiting and the fever and chills. and if you feel like you're going to die, that can be an emergency.

>> okay. if you feel like your going to die, you know it's diarrhea and you've got something serious. thank you.