Physical Examination: What Is It?
The term “physical examination” refers to all the medical procedures performed during a visit to your doctor’s office or hospital. These include tests such as blood pressure checkups, X-rays, MRIs, and other diagnostic imaging devices. Physical examinations are usually done after a patient has been seen by a physician and before they receive treatment from them.
There are many different kinds of physical examinations that may be performed at the same time. They include:
Blood Pressure Checkup Blood pressure checks are one of the most common physical exams that doctors perform. Doctors use blood pressure measurements to make sure there isn’t any blockage in your arteries (heart attack) or veins (stroke). A high blood pressure means you have a problem with your heart or circulation system. If your blood pressure is too low, it could mean that something else is wrong with your body. High blood pressure can cause chest pain and shortness of breath.
Your doctor will measure your blood pressure every few minutes while you’re lying down or sitting up so that she can keep track of how much your blood pressure has changed over time. This is important because it shows if you’re getting better or worse.
Heart Checkup During a heart checkup, medical doctors listen to the sounds your heart makes and feel your pulse to see if your heart is working properly. They also may use an electrocardiograph, or ECG, machine to get a more detailed look at how your heart is functioning. An ECG works by passing harmless electrical currents through your heart. It can pick up on irregularities in your heartbeat and send them to a printer, which creates a graph of the activity.
Lung Capacity Lung capacity measures how much air you can take into your lungs when you breathe in. The results are usually measured in liters, or how much air your lungs can hold. Your lung capacity has a big impact on your physical fitness. If your lung capacity is low, it means you’d tire out quickly during exercise. This could be caused by a wide variety of factors, such as smoking or damage to your lungs.
Body Mass and Measurements For babies, children, teens, and adults, doctors use body mass measurements to determine if they’re a healthy weight and at a good height for their age and height. Doctors also measure your body fat, muscle mass, and bone mass with tools such as scales, calipers, and complex machines.
Body Reflexes and Coordination Reflexes tell you whether or not your nervous system is working properly. To test your reflexes, a doctor will quickly tap on your knees or palms with a rubber hammer. It should take about half a second for you to react to this stimulus. If your reflexes are slow or diminished, it could mean that there’s a problem with your nervous system.
Vision and Hearing Your vision and hearing are tied to important parts of your brain that lets you perceive the world and react to it. These are tested during a physical examination by having you read an eye chart or listen to a tuning fork. If you have trouble seeing the letters on an eye chart, for example, your doctor may send you for a full vision test with a specialist.
Mental Health If you’re seeing a doctor for a physical health examination, he or she will probably not perform a mental health assessment. However, if you have symptoms of mental illness or are coming in with certain risk factors for mental illness (such as family history), your doctor may give you a basic mental status exam. This includes tests that evaluate your mood, behavior, thought process, and ability to solve problems.
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