Annual physical exams are routine examinations that can help you understand more about your overall health or help a doctor diagnose a medical condition. Although everyone should visit a doctor yearly for a routine physical, many people put off these visits for a variety of reasons.
Doctors perform exams in their own ways, but some basic components are present in most exams. Learn what to expect at an annual physical exam to feel more confident before and during your appointment.
A Review of Your Health History
Healthcare providers typically review and update each patient’s medical history at the beginning of the exam. At this time, you will discuss your existing medical conditions, surgical history, medical history of blood relatives, allergies, and medications you’re currently taking or have recently stopped taking.
It’s important to provide accurate and detailed information so your doctor thoroughly understands your health background. This information will help the doctor avoid potential harm.
Vital Signs Monitoring
You should also expect your healthcare provider to check your vital signs at your annual physical exam. When your provider checks your vital signs, they measure your body’s basic functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and body temperature.
One reason vital signs matter at every appointment is that they help the doctor establish your health baseline. The measurements are important indicators of your overall health and assist in identifying potential abnormalities or concerns.
Observation and Examination
During the physical exam, your provider will observe and examine various areas of your body. They may inspect your ears, eyes, nose, throat, lymph nodes, and skin. They might also use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and lungs.
They may palpate different areas of your body, which is an examination by touch. For example, they may palpate your abdomen to check for tenderness or swelling.
Possible Internal Exam
Your doctor may perform an internal exam depending on your age and medical history. For instance, your doctor might perform a pelvic exam or a pap test to look for signs of gynecological issues. However, your primary care provider may instead refer you to an obstetrician-gynecologist for an internal exam.
Your doctor will review your medical history, measure your vital signs, and examine different areas of your body at your annual exam. Remember that the exam is not only about diagnosing problems but also preventing them. At the end of the appointment, your doctor will offer guidance on improving your health and reducing the risk of future problems.