Description of the test
A periodic health examination is an evaluation of your overall health status during which your doctor will evaluate your body, organs, and their functioning.
Evaluation of the body can include inspection (looking at), palpation (feeling), percussion (tapping on), and auscultation (listening) to certain areas of the body. The examination may also involve discussing your medical history, in which your doctor will ask you questions about your medications, medical conditions, allergies, and any symptoms or problems you may be having.
How often should the test be performed?
How often you should get a periodic health examination greatly depends on your individual factors (health status, age, gender).
Although many people visit their doctor for the examination once a year, you may require an examination more or less frequently than this depending on your specific situation. You should talk to your doctor to find out how often you should get an examination.
Why is this test performed?
A periodic health examination is done to assess your overall health status. The information gained from your examination will allow your doctor to give you specific recommendations about how you can prevent disease and maintain good health. This procedure allows you to identify problems early on so that you can take steps to prevent any potential health issues from getting worse. If your doctor notices something concerning during the exam, they can then order necessary tests or perform other procedures to investigate the problem further. The procedure also provides you with an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns you have regarding your overall health.
Are there any risks and precautions?
A periodic health examination is generally safe and does not carry any risks. There is a chance that you might feel some pain if the doctor touches an area of your body that is sore or tender. You should tell your doctor about such areas before the procedure. Some of the components of the examination may make you feel slightly uncomfortable (e.g., evaluation of the reproductive organs, anus, or breasts). You should discuss any concerns you have with your doctor before the procedure.
What happens during the test?
How detailed the procedure is depends on your specific characteristics and needs. These include age, gender, and health status. The procedure is normally about 30 minutes long. You will likely be told to remove all clothing and put on a hospital gown. You will also be covered with a sheet.
Depending on your situation your doctor may:
- measure your height and weight and take your pulse, breathing rate, temperature, and blood pressure using a variety of instruments
- look at your skin, head, neck, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth - a light might be used to inspect the inside of your eyes, ears, nose and mouth
- listen to your heart and your lungs using a stethoscope
- feel your spine and the muscles in your back as well as the areas surrounding your lungs
- feel your breasts to check for lumps
- press on your abdomen to feel the outlines of organs such as the liver, spleen, and kidneys
- inspect your rectum and anus (internally or externally)
- inspect your reproductive organs (internally or externally) - a Pap test may be done on women
- inspect and touch your legs
- evaluate your nervous system by asking you to walk, hop, or do knee bends
- test your reflexes using a small hammer
- ask you questions about your lifestyle (e.g., diet, exercise, medication use, etc.)
- ask you questions about your medical history or the medical history of your family
How should I prepare for this test?
It is a good idea to provide all of the information your doctor will need to assess your health. If you are taking any prescription or non-prescription medications, vitamins, supplements, or any other natural health products, you should show these to your doctor. You should have ready information regarding your health conditions as well as the medical histories of family members in case your doctor asks for them. You should also prepare a list of questions or concerns that you would like to talk to the doctor about.
What can I expect after the test?
You can return to your normal activities immediately after the test. If the doctor has found abnormal results that indicate a potential health problem, then you may be required to get additional tests, screening, or procedures done. Your doctor will give you a written order and schedule a follow-up visit with you to discuss the results.
A normal result is one in which the doctor finds nothing unusual in the appearance or functioning of your body and organs.
An abnormal result is one that indicates that you might have an underlying condition, disease, or disorder. Examples include lumps, fever, or a heart arrhythmia. If your doctor finds any abnormal results during your examination, they will order further testing and schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the results of these. If your doctor suspects a health issue that is outside their area of expertise, you may be referred to a specialist.