What You Don’t Know about Annual Physical Exam and Why It Is Important to Have It

Annual physical exam is a preventive exam, you can think of it as an annual tune up of your car. The aim of the annual exam is to screen the patient for a number of conditions some of which are leading cause of deaths. The aim is to diagnose disease conditions at an earlier stage. This gives us the opportunity to either cure these conditions or stop their progress at least.

Why it is important to get an annual physical exam?

The importance of annual physical exam is well documented in research. In a research conducted it was found that the mortality rate was low in elderly people who received annual physical exam as compared to those who did not.

There are certain additional points which emphasize the importance of getting an annual physical exam.

  • People don’t have time nowadays. They can’t go to a doctor several times. Thus it is important to visit a doctor at least once a year. This provides you with a chance to talk to your doctor about any health-related issues and get them addressed.
  • You may not be having any symptoms and you may feel great. The important point for you to realize is that there are certain deadly conditions which don’t produce any symptoms unless complications occur and damage is beyond repair. They include things such as High blood pressure, Hypercholesterolemia and Diabetes.

This is why it is advised for you to get an annual physical examination, as your doctor can pick these “silent killer” at an earlier stage, stop their progression and prevent you from any serious complication.

  • You might visit a doctor at some point in the year; let’s say for some an ailment. The doctor may advice you to have blood tests and other relevant investigations related to that complaint only. There are conditions, however which can b missed in such usual visits. For instance a melanoma on your back cannot be picked with the blood tests and X-rays. This can be picked only when you get a physical exam.

What can you expect when you visit for an annual physical exam?

There are three important aspects of the annual physical exam. They include

1. History:

This is your opportunity to tell your doctor about any symptoms you had during the past year or you are having trouble with right now.

There are certain conditions that people are embarrassed to talk about .They include erectile dysfunction and problems related to mental health such as stress, anxiety and depression. People usually want to hide these problems. Thus the most important point to understand here is to talk to your doctor openly about any problem you are facing.

2. Vitals:

The next step is to record vitals. They include

  • Blood Pressure
  • Heart Rate
  • Temperature
  • Respiratory rate
  • This include examination of the all the systems of the body such as examination of the lungs, heart, skin, head and neck, examination of the abdomen, extremities and a neurological exam. The doctor may tailor out what system he is going to examine during a systemic exam specifically for you depending upon your needs.
  • During the system exam you might be examined for the following additional things depending upon your gender.
    • In males of particular importance is the examination of prostate. This is because the risk of getting prostate cancer increases with the age. The prostate is examined by inserting a finger in your rectum. This may produce a slight discomfort it is the best way we are going to “physically” asses your prostate gland for any changes.
    • In case of female patients particular importance is given to the examination of breast. This is because most of the benign conditions of the breast as well as deadly breast cancer initially presents in the form of lumps in the breast. These changes can be picked at an earlier stage merely by a simple physical exam. The doctor may also take a Pap smear during pelvic examination to screen you for the cervical cancer.

3. Systemic Exam

This include examination of the all the systems of the body such as examination of the lungs, heart, skin, head and neck, examination of the abdomen, extremities and a neurological exam. The doctor may tailor out what system he is going to examine during a systemic exam specifically for you depending upon your needs.

During the system exam you might be examined for the following additional things depending upon your gender.

  • In males of particular importance is the examination of prostate. This is because the risk of getting prostate cancer increases with the age. The prostate is examined by inserting a finger in your rectum. This may produce a slight discomfort it is the best way we are going to “physically” asses your prostate gland for any changes.
  • In case of female patients particular importance is given to the examination of breast. This is because most of the benign conditions of the breast as well as deadly breast cancer initially presents in the form of lumps in the breast. These changes can be picked at an earlier stage merely by a simple physical exam. The doctor may also take a Pap smear during pelvic examination to screen you for the cervical cancer.

4. Lab Tests

There are certain tests which are advised in routine during a visit for annual physical exam. They include

  • Blood CP
  • Urine R/E
  • Lipid Profile

What are the diseases which are of particular interest in annual physical exam?

In an annual physical exam all the systems are examined. Thus we are likely to pick disorders related to any system. However there are certain deadly disease and conditions that are of particular importance to us during an annual physical exam. This is because it is very easy for us to diagnose them or rule them out. They include

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Prostate cancer
  • Clororectal cancer
  • Breast Cancer

When to start Getting an annual Physical Exam?

There are no specific recommendations available so for about when to start getting an annual physical exam. However, the fact is the earlier you start the better it is. In general, the usual age at which people are advised to get a physical exam every year is 40 years.

What is the advice for you before you go for an annual Physical Exam?

There are two main steps that you can take to make the outcome of your physical exam more effective.

  • Write down the symptoms as well as any questions you have in mind night before the annual physical exam. This is to make sure that you don’t miss to discuss anything important with your doctor.
  • If you are using any medication, bring them along to the physician’s office. This is because it is very important for you to tell your doctor about the medications you are talking and you may not be able to do so if you forget the names of the drugs.
  • Be honest. Try to discus everything openly with your Physician. Keep in mind that he will be able to help only if he comes to know about your problems.

 

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