Getting a routine physical exam is one of the best ways to avoid serious health problems. During a physical examination, your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you’ve been having and check to see if you have any signs of chronic disease.
Before your examination, your primary care doctor will ask you about your medical history and health habits. You should let your doctor know if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, as these behaviors increase your risk for serious health problems. Your doctor may also ask about your family medical history to determine if you have any genetic factors for disease. Give your doctor as much information as possible so she can order any necessary tests.
Your primary care provider will record your blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiration rate during your annual physical exam. If any of these vital signs are abnormal, she may repeat them or suggest that you have diagnostic tests to rule out any serious problems. She may also request lab testing, including a cholesterol panel.
During the examination, your doctor will check each of your body systems to make sure they are functioning normally. Listening to your heart helps her detect if you have a heart murmur or irregular heartbeat. Your general appearance is also a good indicator of your overall health. If you have trouble standing or standing, your doctor might want to investigate further.
Your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to make sure you do not have any signs of heart or lung disease. If she hears any wheezing or crackling, you might need to have a chest X-ray. During the head and neck exam, your primary care provider will check your teeth, gums, ears, nose, and eyes.
It is possible to detect some abnormalities by palpating, or tapping, on the abdomen, so your doctor will also conduct an abdominal exam. While your doctor performs this exam, she is looking for tenderness and the presence of fluid in the abdominal cavity. Your doctor will also check your reflexes and examine your skin and nails to detect any abnormalities.
Most of the physical examination is the same for men and women, but there are a few things that differ. If you are male, the doctor will check your testicles for lumps and make sure you do not have a hernia in the muscle between the scrotum and intestines. Your doctor may also want to examine your penis or conduct a prostate exam.
A well-woman exam typically includes a breast examination, pelvic exam, and Pap smear. During the breast exam, your primary care provider will check for lumps and enlarged lymph nodes. The pelvic exam is an examination of the cervix, vulva, and vagina used to check for sexually transmitted infections, cancerous lesions, and other abnormalities. The Pap test is used to screen for cervical cancer. During the test, a doctor will take a sample of cells from your cervix. These cells will be analyzed to determine if there are any abnormal changes.
Focus on Prevention
Taking the necessary steps to prevent disease can help you avoid invasive tests and treatments, and it can also help you limit your out-of-pocket medical costs. If you have not had a physical examination in more than a year, contact Chapel Hill Primary Care to schedule an appointment.