What is a physical examination?
A physical examination is a routine test your primary care provider (PCP) performs to check your overall health. A PCP may be a doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a physician assistant. The exam is also known as a wellness check. You don’t have to be sick to request an exam.
The physical exam can be a good time to ask your PCP questions about your health or discuss any changes or problems that you have noticed.
There are different tests that can be performed during your physical examination. Depending on your age or medical or family history, your PCP may recommend additional testing.
The purpose of an annual physical exam
A physical examination helps your PCP to determine the general status of your health. The exam also gives you a chance to talk to them about any ongoing pain or symptoms that you’re experiencing or any other health concerns that you might have.
A physical examination is recommended at least once a year, especially in people over the age of 50. These exams are used to:
- Check for possible diseases so they can be treated early.
- Identify any issues that may become medical concerns in the future.
- Ensure that you are maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.
- Build a relationship with your PCP.
How is a physical examination performed?
Before meeting with your PCP, a nurse will ask you a series of questions regarding your medical history, including any allergies, past surgeries, or symptoms you might have. They may also ask about your lifestyle, including if you exercise, smoke, or drink alcohol.
Your PCP will usually begin the exam by inspecting your body for unusual marks or growths. You may sit or stand during this part of the exam.
Next, they may have you lie down and will feel your abdomen and other parts of your body. When doing this, your PCP is inspecting the consistency, location, size, tenderness, and texture of your individual organs.
Your PCP will also use the stethoscope to listen your heart and lungs to make sure there are no abnormal sounds.
Genital exam is a part of the routine physical exam. For females the genital exam is done as a part of women’s annual exam.
While you can always contact your PCP as needed, your physical examination is your private time set up to ask questions about anything health-related. If you don’t understand any test that your PCP is doing, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Following up after a physical examination
After the appointment, you are free to go about your day. Your PCP may follow up with you after the exam via phone call or email. They will generally provide you with a copy of your test results and carefully go over the report. Your PCP will point out any problem areas and tell you anything that you should be doing. Depending on what your PCP finds, you may need other tests or screenings at a later date.
If no additional tests are needed and no health problems arise, you are set until next year.
Student Health Center
The University of Texas at Dallas
800 W. Campbell Rd., SSB43
Richardson, TX 75080
After Hours Nurse Line
If the Student Health Center is closed, call 972-883-2747 and follow the prompts to speak with a registered nurse about your symptoms at no additional cost.