When do I need to get a physical exam?

This is a very broad, common question. Often, I get these comments from patients related to general physical exams:

“It’s been a while or I just turned (30, 40, or 50) and I think I need a complete physical.” 
“My wife said I have to get to the clinic and get a physical.” 
“I don’t feel that great and need a physical to find out what’s going on.”

There is a common feeling that general checkups are a good idea, and it’s hard to argue with that. Instead of a one-size-fits-all annual physical, though, more accepted in recent years is the idea of a focused checkup and illness screening.

When to get a physical exam and which kind of tests to get depend on a person’s symptoms, general physical condition and age; besides past illness, medical testing and hospitalizations, as well as the ages, conditions and medical history of close family members. Watch out for changes in your physical, emotional and mental status to discuss with your healthcare provider. There are certain illnesses that appear with little or no outward signs and usually can only be found by screening. Some examples of really common conditions identified during a screening are:

• Diabetes

• High blood pressure

• High cholesterol

• Thyroid problems

Some conditions are predicted to be more likely by one’s family history and genetics. Cancer screening is also something most people have heard a lot about. Keeping up on immunizations can also help you prevent illness. Check with your healthcare provider when it is the time to get a physical exam. Most all of the conditions listed here can be well treated or prevented altogether with current treatments and medications.

How to be prepared for your visit:

• Write down all your concerns, symptoms and questions beforehand, so that you discuss it all at your appointment without forgetting any important detail;


• Be specific and objective when describing your symptoms so that your provider has the best changes of diagnosing and treating you appropriately;

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