The Importance of Annual Physical Examinations

Many adults have a hard time scheduling their annual physical examinations. There are a few different reasons that adults use to justify why they did not get their yearly physical. The first is the difficulty of scheduling a physical exam. Many adults feel that they are simply too busy to fit a physical exam into their schedule, usually saying they are unable to secure the time off of work, or that they need to be home to take care of their family. Another common reason adults use to justify not getting a physical is believing they are perfectly healthy. These individuals are not necessarily opposed to seeing a doctor if they need medical assistance, but they do not see the value getting a yearly physical.

The Purpose of a Yearly Physical Examination

Many adults skip their yearly physical examinations because they underestimate how important a physical is. Yearly physical examinations serve multiple purposes. Through a yearly exam, medical providers are able to screen for different diseases and assess whether or not their patients are at risk of any future medical problems. It is not uncommon for a patient to feel perfectly fine while having a medical condition that has not yet shown any symptoms.

Part of avoiding any future medical conditions means living a healthy lifestyle. During a yearly physical, doctors are able to provide medical advice to help their patients live healthy lifestyles, which may prevent future medical conditions. Yearly physicals are also a good way for doctors to make sure their patients are staying up to date with their vaccinations. Finally, a yearly physical is a good way for patients and doctors to strengthen their relationship. This may not seem important, but patients that are uncomfortable with their doctors may have a harder time justifying a future visit. It may also be harder for patients to be honest with their doctors if they do not feel comfortable with them.

What happens during a yearly physical examination?

Doctors perform many different procedures during a yearly physical examination. Most doctors begin the physical by talking with their patient. During the conversation, the doctor asks several questions regarding diet, exercise, sexual health and whether or not the patient drinks or smokes. During this time, patients can also update their family medical histories and go over whether or not they are up to date with their vaccinations or required medical tests.

After that, the doctor moves on to taking the vitals of his or her patient. During this time, the doctor will perform a blood pressure test. Next, doctors will look at the heart rate of the patient, which determines how many times his or her heart is beating per minute. After that, doctors test for respiration rate, which is the average number of breaths a patient takes each minute. Finally, doctors will take the temperature of their patient.

While all of these may seem like very basic medical procedures, they are incredibly important for identifying potential medical issues. Many patients may feel healthy, but there are various serious medical conditions that do not necessarily cause symptoms. Doctors may be able to spot these health risks based on physical examinations.

During these physical exams, doctors will also take note of the physical appearance of the patient. Some examples of this include looking at the skin tone of a patient, whether or not the patient has difficulty moving and whether or not the patient has difficulty breathing. Based on this, doctors may perform additional exams, like checking the ears, nose, eyes, lymph nodes or sinuses of a patient. Doctors will commonly look at a patient's tonsils and tongue as well.

Doctors will also perform basic tests on the internal organs. These tests include tapping on the abdomen to help detect liver size, as well as check for the presence of any abdominal fluids. Doctors will also physically check for any tenderness, and may listen to additional sounds using a stethoscope.

Gender-Specific Examinations

In addition to the basic health procedures during a physical examination, there other procedures that only apply to certain genders. For men, doctors will examine their patients for growths or lumps on their testicles, which could be a sign of cancer. For women, doctors perform a breast examination. Based on the sexual history of the patient, doctors may decide to perform additional screenings. For this part of the procedure, doctors of the opposite gender will typically offer to bring in a different physician that matches the gender of the patient.

Preparing for a Physical Examination

There is very little preparation that goes into a physical examination. Patients are primarily responsible for providing medical history. Most of this information should already be known by their doctor, but patients should still be prepared with the list of any medications they are currently taking. Patients should also be ready to talk about any allergies they have. In certain cases, patients may want to avoid eating before a physical examination, as the doctor may order blood tests that must be done while the patient is fasting.