You are applying for a job, and you have prepared everything. You have your resume, your letter of recommendation, and the rest of your essential documents. But then you noticed that you need to take a physical examination – so what is a physical examination?
There are many types of physical examinations, depending on why you need one. Let’s cover most of what a physical examination includes.
What is a Physical Examination?
A physical examination is a diagnostic check-up of your overall health. It is a routine test that your primary care provider (PCP) implements. Your PCP can be a doctor, a physician assistant, or a registered nurse practitioner.
A physical examination may also be called a wellness check. Since the purpose of the exam is to diagnose your overall health, you don’t necessarily have to be sick to take the test. Furthermore, it is highly encouraged to ask the primary care provider frank questions regarding any health concerns or changes that you have noticed.
A wellness check may include a wide variety of tests. Your medical or family history and your age can play a factor in what tests you will take. Your PCP reserves the right to focus on certain test areas depending on your medical history.
For example, if your family has a history of heart diseases, the PCP may focus on testing your blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.
Here are the standard inclusions of a physical examination.
Updating Your Medical History
Although physical examinations differ from one to another, all have a common purpose. That purpose is to update your medical history.
Your primary care provider may ask for updates regarding your health. The questions may include your employment status, relationships, allergies, new medications, supplements you are taking, recent injuries or surgeries.
Checking Your Vital Signs
A general diagnosis of your overall health should always include a vital signs check. This test includes taking a blood pressure reading and examining your heart and respiratory rate.
As a general rule, you must have your blood pressure checked once a year or once every three years, depending on your health history and situation.
A general physical examination will often include physical testing. The doctor will use tools, such as a stethoscope to look into your eyes, throat, nose, or ears. The PCP will also listen to your heart and lungs, looking for abnormalities.
A physical examination will also include palpating, or feeling, parts of your body to look for abnormalities. The test may also include skin, hair, and nail check and testing your reflexes or motor skills. An examination of your genitalia and rectum is within the range of potential tests.
The quickest and most possible inclusion in a physical examination is a visual exam. The doctor will closely examine you, looking for visible signs of deteriorating health and potential conditions. Your PCP will examine the parts of your body that can indicate existing health concerns.
They will look at your head, eyes, chest, abdomen, walk, speech, hands, or wrists.
Laboratory Tests Physical Examination
Sometimes, to complete a physical examination, laboratory tests are required. The doctor may draw your blood for several laboratory tests, which may include a complete blood count or a metabolic panel (also called a chemistry panel) that tests your plasma.
Laboratory tests may detect problems with your kidney, liver, immunity, and overall blood chemistry. If any issues are detected, the PCP may take diabetes and thyroid screening. If the tests return with indications of increased risk of heart attack, diseases, or stroke, the PCP may also do a lipid panel or a cholesterol test.
Aside from a wide variety of tests, a physical examination may also include several forms of screening. Some screenings are for women, some for men, and others for both.
Screening types for women:
- Mammogram – a mammogram checks for the risk of breast cancer among women. It can be part of an annual gynecological test.
- Breast exam – a PCP will feel the breasts for lumps or any sign of breast cancer.
- Pap smear – a pap smear checks for cervical cancer.
- Pelvic exam – the PCP examines a woman’s genitalia for signs of sexually transmitted infections (STI). It may or may not include a pap smear.
- Osteoporosis screening – osteoporosis is more common among women than men. An osteoporosis screening scans the density of the bones.
Screening types for men:
- Prostate cancer screening – prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. Screening should begin at 50 or 40 for those with a family history of prostate cancer.
- Testicular exam – the PCP examines each testicle, looking for lumps, tenderness, or any indications of a problem.
- Cholesterol test – it is advisable for men to start taking cholesterol tests at age 35. If your family has a history of diabetes or heart disease, you may have to take cholesterol tests by age 20.
Screening types for both men and women:
- Depression – most people don’t know the signs of depression. A physical exam may diagnose depression as the cause of your health problems.
- Diabetes – a diabetes screening should be done if your family has a history of diabetes or you are overweight.
- HIV test – the PCP may want to conduct an HIV test for preventative measures. Your PCP may run the test regularly if you have unprotected sex regularly.
- Syphilis test – if you are at risk of syphilis or are pregnant, you may need to take a syphilis test.
- Lung cancer screening – an annual lung cancer test for people who smoked heavily is highly encouraged. Your doctor may decide whether you need the screening depending on your smoking history.
There are other types of screenings that you might have to take in a physical examination. Additional screenings are colon cancer tests, hepatitis C, vaccinations, STI screening, and more.
Where Do I Get a Physical Examination?
A physical examination should only be performed by a health care professional. Here at Chariss Family Medical Clinic, we are staffed by professionals equipped with the latest healthcare information and medical technology. Contact us at (240) 770-4315 or visit our contact us page to schedule a physical examination.