A regular physical exam is done to ensure you remain healthy. A physical examination can also be preventive. It helps you stay up-to-date with vaccinations or diagnose a serious condition such as diabetes or cancer before they advance into worse problems.
When you go for a physical, the physician will also examine your vitals, including your heart rate, weight and blood pressure.
The objectives of a physical exam
The physician will use the exam to check the performance of your body. Based on your medical history, the doctor may choose to attend to specific areas. If there is a family record of heart disease, for instance, you may get extra blood tests, blood pressure checks and diabetes and cholesterol tests.
Depending on your results, medical records and age, the routine exam is a chance to talk about preventive care with your primary caregiver.
What happens during the physical exam?
Depending on your condition, a routine physical exam may include:
Updated medical history
The physician will ask for information regarding any differences and changes in your health history. The questions may include info about medications, allergies, supplements, jobs and relationships, or any recent surgical procedures.
Vital sign exams
This entails checking the blood pressure reading, respiratory rate and health rate. You should have your blood pressure checked once a year or every three years, depending on your medical history.
The doctor will examine your physical appearance for indications of a potential issue. They will usually focus on the areas of the body that visually show any present health condition. These include the head, eyes, chest, abdomen, nervous system functions and musculoskeletal system.
Using medical devices, the doctor will check your ears, eyes, nose and throat. They will also listen to your lungs and heart. The physical exam comprises of touching parts of your body for abnormalities, checking your hair, skin and nails, examining your rectum and genitalia and testing your reflexes and motor functions.
To finalize your physical exam, the physician may take blood samples for multiple laboratory tests. This may include a total blood count and total metabolic panel, also known as a chemistry panel. The panel examines your blood plasma and can show any problem present in your liver, kidneys, immune system and blood chemistry. This helps to discover abnormalities in the body that might be the sign of a bigger issue.
The doctor may ask for a thyroid screen and a diabetes screen. If you are highly predisposed to heart attack, stroke or heart disease, then they may ask for a lipid panel (cholesterol screening).
Additional screening tests
Screening tests are usually part of the physical exam, and they can vary depending on your biological sex.
For women, the screenings include:
- Breast exam
- Pap Smear
- Pelvic exam
- Cholesterol test
- Osteoporosis screening
Screenings for men include:
- Cholesterol test
- Prostate cancer screening
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm screening
- Testicular exam
Both men and women:
- Colon cancer test
- Lung cancer screening
- Hepatitis C
- STI screening (HIV and syphilis test)
A regular physical exam, especially as you age, can help avert may health complications. It will also prepare you for any potential issues you may be predisposed to due to aging, family history or lifestyle.
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