May 1, 2018
With neighborhood medical centers in communities across the country, we get a good picture of what illnesses and injuries brings people to urgent care most often. Here’s a look at some of the top 10 most common ailments we see at MedExpress:
The Main Offender: Respiratory Illness
Respiratory illnesses, with symptoms of coughing, sneezing, runny noses, or congestion, bring more people into MedExpress centers each year than any other illness or injury. Respiratory illnesses tend to ebb and flow with the seasons, but they are around all year. The most common respiratory illnesses according to MedExpress information are:
Common cold (aka upper respiratory infection)
Did you know the word “common” is part of this diagnosis’ name for a reason – adults in the United States average two to three colds per year. No other illness makes us miss so much school and work. Symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, headaches, and slight aches and pains, and they usually build up for a few days.1
Sore throats are also really common; they account for almost 10 percent of annual visits to MedExpress. Sore throat visits can either be caused by bacteria, such as strep, or a virus. Not sure how to tell the difference? We’ve got you covered. Our medical team may conduct a test to confirm whether it’s strep, so your doctor will know whether you need antibiotics or not.
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs. This inflammation causes you to cough – a lot! Coughing will be wet, and can be so persistent that it leads to sore ribs. Additional symptoms may include fatigue and chills. Acute bronchitis, the more common form, involves an episode of inflammation typically brought on by a cold or other virus, while chronic bronchitis involves constant inflammation, usually caused by smoking.
Although we don’t see it as often as the previous illnesses, flu gets its own season, peaking most years between December and March. This very contagious respiratory illness has symptoms similar to a cold, but they can be much more severe. If you struggle to tell the difference, see our guide to tell them apart.
Sinus infections (aka Sinusitis)
Sinusitis is our most common diagnosis, but we’ve left it here at the end of the respiratory list because it often results from first having a cold or other upper respiratory infection. Sinus infections happen when congestion allows germs to grow, which causes swelling and pain in the sinuses. That’s why it’s important to come in when you first notice symptoms of respiratory illness.
Taken together, respiratory illnesses make up more than 40 percent of all diagnoses at MedExpress – more than any other broad category.
So Uncomfortable: Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
UTIs hold the unfortunate honor of being the only non-respiratory illness to make the top five of our most common diagnoses. It isn’t a pleasant thing to talk about, but this uncomfortable topic comes up quite often at MedExpress. In fact, four out of every 100 patients that visit MedExpress are dealing with it!
UTIs normally happen when bacteria enters the urinary tract and grows in the bladder. Symptoms include burning or pain while urinating, a strong urge to urinate, and frequently urinating small amounts. While all of this is uncomfortable, it is also oh-so-common. Learn about diagnosing and treating UTIs.
Getting down to the Nitty-gritty: Other Common Infections
There are a few more infections that rise to the top, each impacting a specific area: ears, eyes, and skin.
If you associate ear infections with kids, you’re right. More than 40 percent of ear infections treated at MedExpress occur in kids under 13-years-old. Types of ear infections differ based on the part of the ear affected. Symptoms include ear pain, fever, drainage from the ear, and headaches; but you could have an ear infection without any obvious symptoms. Children may also tug or pull their ears, cry more than usual, or not respond to sounds if they have an ear infection.
Pink Eye (aka conjunctivitis)
This common malady leaves your eyes red, watery, and swollen. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies, or getting things like chemicals or pollution in your eyes. While there are both viral and bacterial versions of pink eye, both are very contagious. Kids catch the bacterial version more often; it’s one of the most common reasons that kids stay home from school or daycare.2 The contagious varieties spread either in the air or on the hands – so to keep your eyes the correct color, make sure you wash your hands often, and try to avoid rubbing your eyes with unwashed hands.
Skin Infection (or Cellulitis)
You may or may not have heard of cellulitis, but have you ever had a cut that got infected? Skin infections, aka cellulitis, happen when bacteria make their way into an opening in the skin – usually cuts, scrapes, bug bites, or rashes that have been scratched. If you think you have a skin infection, it's important to get medical treatment right away. Watch for wounds that aren’t healing or any increase in pain, redness, drainage, warmth, or swelling. Keep these tips in mind to help keep a cut or scrape from getting infected.
Honorable Mention: Sprains and Strains from the Ankle Down
So far, we’ve talked about illnesses, and while it’s true that illnesses do make up the top 10 diagnoses at MedExpress, some injuries are more frequent than others. In the injury category, ankle, foot, and toe sprains and strains take the prize. Unlike the illnesses listed above, these injuries peak in summer and fall and decrease in the winter.
What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain? Sprains involve a ligament, the short band of flexible tissue connecting bones and cartilage. Strains, on the other hand, occur when muscles and/or tendons are stretched or torn. Both usually occur at joints, and they share symptoms including swelling and tenderness. You may or may not be able to put weight on it depending on the severity of the sprain or strain. They can be difficult to differentiate from fractures and should be evaluated by a medical professional, as X-rays may be necessary.
1 CDC: Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others. Last updated February 12, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.
2 CDC: Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). Last updated October 2, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2018.