Good health is dependent on regular exercise and a healthy diet. In addition to the exercise and diet, a routine physical examination is an essential part of your overall preventive medicine plan.
An important study published in the American Journal of Medicine revealed that inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects.
What Is a Physical Exam?
A physical exam measures your critical vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. The exam also evaluates your body using observation, palpitation, percussion, and auscultation. Observation includes using instruments to look into your eyes, ears, nose, and throat.
A physical exam can be a general exam or a specific one to inspect for a particular problem. Your primary care physician conducts a thorough overall physical exam, which is scheduled annually. This exam may be more frequent if specific health issues are being managed and require monitoring.
All physicals integrate your medical history. The doctor will ask you specific health questions about you, your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, and your children, which become a part of the big diagnostic picture. Be prepared by researching this information beforehand. Other information you’ll provide includes current medications you are taking, both prescribed and over-the-counter. You will also be asked about any previous medical procedures, tests, doctors, and treatments.
Elements of a Physical Exam
A thorough physical examination typically covers head to toe, and they usually last approximately 30 minutes. Your doctor exams your skin color, lesions, and notes any hygiene issues. They will also examine other parts of your body if symptoms or medical history indicates the need. Your doctor will also examine certain parts of your body, feeling for unusual lumps, checking organ size and shape, and checking responses. You’ll experience your doctor placing one hand over your abdomen and tapping it with the other hand. This allows the doctor to rely on percussion to determine organ location, identify blockages, and pinpoint any problem areas. A small rubber hammer detects reflex responses. They will also use a stethoscope to listen to your heart, lungs, and bowels.
Your doctor asks to perform additional tests if they feel something needs more examination from your medical history, your symptoms, or the physical examination. The doctor will explain what tests they want to perform, what they are looking for, and what can be learned with the results.
Blood tests are a normal part of the physical examination to determine body chemistry, the presence of pathogens, or body functions. A urine specimen checks for kidney and urinary tract health, and gender-specific issues. A stool sample and sputum cultures may be required if you have specific symptoms.
Imaging studies may include X-rays, computer tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance (MRI) scans. An electrocardiogram (EKG) measures heart activity.
There are also specialized and in-depth diagnostics available to help your doctor with your case which may include sleep studies, home monitoring devices, and any number of other tools could become essential after you leave the office.
Having a physical examination annually can possibly save your life and is often the only way you or your doctor become aware of a problem you’re your own health advocate by taking charge of your life by staying active, eating right, and being proactive about your health.
Hillandale Primary Care & Laser Center is owned and operated by Dr. Saira Tariq Niaz, who is a board-certified family physician with offices in Lithonia and Lawrenceville Georgia. Hillandale Primary Care provides patient-focused, compassionate healthcare of the highest quality to each patient and delivers acute and chronic healthcare to patients of all ages. We are passionate about preventive medicine and encourage each of our patients to take an active role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Call today at 770.322-9660 or request an appointment.