Just three conditions may account for most doctor visits and healthcare consults in the United States: Skin problems, joint disorders, and back pain.
That’s the key finding of new research by Mayo Clinic medical specialists who tracked more than 140,000 Minnesota patients who visited clinics and medical care centers between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2009.
Researchers said they were surprised to find that major chronic health conditions did not top list and that the leading conditions generally are more common in women.
"Surprisingly, the most prevalent non-acute conditions in our community were not chronic conditions related to aging, such as diabetes and heart disease, but rather conditions that affect both genders and all age groups," said Jennifer St. Sauver, a specialist with the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, who led the study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
She added that the findings may help focus more efforts on prevention and treatment programs for those conditions, which strike large groups of patients.
"Much research already has focused on chronic conditions, which account for the majority of healthcare utilization and costs in middle-aged and older adults,” she said. “We were interested in finding out about other types of conditions that may affect large segments of the population across all age groups."
The research findings are based on the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a Mayo Clinic medical records system that maintains medical charts for Olmsted County, Minn., residents. Researchers found the top diseases for which patients sought medical care:
• Skin disorders, such as acne, cysts, and dermatitis;
• Osteoarthritis/joint disorders;
• Back problems;
• Cholesterol problems;
• Upper respiratory conditions (not including asthma);
• Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder;
• Chronic neurologic disorders;
• High blood pressure;
• Headaches/migraine; and