A physical is an exam used to monitor the health of an individual. Physicals can be done annually (yearly) in healthy individuals or as part of routine check-ups in people who have comorbid conditions or a strong family history of diseases. Physicals typically monitor overall health status, as opposed to addressing specific conditions.
Annual checkups may help with early diagnosis of medical conditions. Treatment of these conditions early on can provide for an improved quality of life.
Annual and routine check-ups
Annual physicals almost always involve getting a set of “vital signs” including age, weight, height, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen level. In an annual check-up, the medical provider will take a detailed history. That provider will also perform an exam looking at the major body systems such as heart, lungs, and skin. This is referred to as a “head to toe” exam. Screening and diagnostic tests may be ordered depending on the findings during the exam, as well as a patient’s age and other medical conditions. Some examples of these tests are checking a patient’s blood sugar and cholesterol levels. If there are specific issues that need to be addressed, the medical provider will work with the patient to develop a plan of care.
Annual check-ups are preferred in healthy people with no personal or family history of any disease. If there are health conditions that need to be addressed, annual check-ups may be supplemented with follow-up visits. The timing of the follow-ups depends on the issues being addressed.
Screening tests are usually performed to determine if there is an underlying condition that can be detected in preliminary phases and treated accordingly. Many conditions get detected through these routine medical physicals.
When you need physicals
Annual physicals can help detect issues in both children and adults. These physicals may have more benefit for the very young and very old. The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends a variety of tests and screenings that vary based on age and medical history. Your medical provider can provide recommendations on how frequently you may need a physical exam.
The physical exam includes some basic history, followed by some tests. The visit starst with recording blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, pulse, and other vital signs. A medical provider will conduct a general physical examination to look for symptoms of disease. The medical provider will conduct a detailed heart exam to look for abnormal heart sounds such as murmurs. This is used to detect any irregularity in the cardiovascular system. A lung examination will also be performed. In this, the medical provider uses a stethoscope to hear if the lungs are functioning properly or not. The medical provider usually listens for abnormal breath sounds such as wheezing or crackles. In the head and neck exam, the provider looks for abnormalities in the throat, mouth, ear, nose, vision, and hearing. The lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries may also be examined. An abdominal exam includes examining for hernias, distention, and fluid accumulation. Then specific tests are done for cardiovascular problems, colon cancers, breast cancers, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, aneurysms, and cancers, depending on a person’s age and medical history.
In case of urgent medical care assistance, AfterOurs Urgent Care offers immediate telemedicine services, where medical providers are available to offer assistance. Anyone who experiences signs and symptoms requiring urgent medical attention can simply book their appointment with AfterOurs Urgent Care to directly talk to an expert. If your medical issue is not appropriate for telemedicine, we will let you know and refer you to an in-person facility.
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