SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The coronavirus pandemic forced many people to skip their routine or preventative health care appointments over the past year. Many others ignored or put off health problems because they were afraid of catching the virus.
Now that case rates are dropping, and vaccines are more widely available, doctors say they're seeing more patients return to their offices.
While that's good news, several patients are now learning about serious health problems either caused by the pandemic or made worse by more than a year without treatment.
"I had patients that didn't go for a follow-up, or they missed their appointment," says Dr. Kaveh Bahmanpour, with Sharp Community Medical Group. He specializes in Family Medicine and Geriatric Medicine. Dr. Bahmanpour believes his practice saw a 20-50% drop in patients during the Pandemic.
Dr. Bahmanpour says it was most common among older patients who missed regular screenings for colon cancer or mammograms.
Now, patients come in with undiagnosed high blood pressure, weight issues, and diabetes.
"Now we are in a place where we need to catch up with the things that we missed last year," says Dr. Bahmanpour. "I think that a lot of work needs to be done."
According to the CDC, 41% of American adults either delayed or skipped medical care during the Pandemic.
"There was a fear of getting COVID," says Dr. Bahmanpour. "That's understandable. I wouldn't want to expose myself to that."
The problems expand beyond general health issues. Physical therapists say they see injuries get worse because of missed treatments. They're also seeing new issues arise from a year of working at home with an office that isn't set up correctly.
"They're either working at their kitchen table or from their couch because that's comfortable and cozy," says Dr. Kaylee Smith, who runs a PT clinic in La Jolla. "Because of that, they're starting to have neck pain and back pain from poor posture and poor ergonomics."
Dr. Smith says her office saw a "significant" drop in case-load during the pandemic. Now, she says patients are coming back with more complex problems.
"What started as hip pain has now grown into knee pain and ankle pain," she says.
Dr. Smith tells her patients to reorganize their workspace with an emphasis on proper posture to avoid injuries. She says people need to sit in a chair that puts their hips parallel or slightly higher than their knees. They also need to put their computer monitors at eye level to avoid slouching.
"If you're using a laptop, get a separate keyboard and mouse so that you can prop your laptop up but still have the keyboard down low," she says.
Dr. Bahmanpour says there is good news. He's glad patients are coming back to the doctor's office. And he believes many of the problems they're seeing are treatable.
"I think we can get back and heal," he says.