To help monitor and maintain your health, remember to schedule an annual physical examination. In this way, your primary care provider can assess your current health status, detect any emerging conditions, and provide preventive measures to protect against disease.
The importance of a detailed health history
As part of a comprehensive physical examination, your personal medical and relevant family medical history, are carefully reviewed and updated. This information alerts the doctor of any inherited conditions, familial tendencies, or injuries that can impact your health and function. Since your lifestyle and habits may have a profound effect on your overall health, some questions regarding diet and exercise, sleep hygiene, smoking habits, or alcohol consumption will be asked.
At this time, you should indicate any allergies, recent illnesses, surgeries, or other medical procedures. Also, if you have experienced any unusual or potentially problematic signs or symptoms of a health issue since your last physical exam, please bring this information to your doctor’s attention.
Performing a comprehensive clinical exam
Once the information is gathered, a clinical exam will be performed. This portion of the visit includes the following assessments:
- Measuring current height and weight
- Checking vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, and temperature
- Inspecting the eyes, throat, ears, and nose
- Listening to the heart and lungs
- Feeling for any tenderness or pain in the abdomen
- Checking reflexes
- Assessing joint function
- Palpating lymph nodes
- Taking note of suspicious moles, lesions, or poor wound healing, as well as other changes to the skin, hair, and nails
In addition to checking all of the above, any observed neurological or musculoskeletal dysfunction will also be noted.
Diagnostic and laboratory testing
Based upon your age, history, and symptoms, diagnostic imaging and laboratory tests are performed. While the extent of testing can vary from patient to patient, blood and urine samples are relatively standard. Both types of tests provide useful information on how your body is working. From revealing imbalances or deficiencies, these tests can also demonstrate evidence of disease or infection.
Vaccines and immunizations
Finally, before your physical exam is over, you will also be advised if your immunizations are up to date, or if any vaccinations to protect your health are recommended.
Results, recommendations, and follow-up care
Besides discussing your health and providing guidance during your annual physical exam, you’ll also be apprised of the results of your laboratory tests once that information becomes available. At that time, any further diagnostic testing or follow-up care will be discussed.