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  • The Doctor Will See You Now
    You’re at the doctor’s office for your annual well-check visit or because you’re sick. A nurse asks a few questions and does a few tests. When the doctor finally arrives, he asks more questions and does a few more tests. What are all the tests for and what do they show? Read >>
Health and Fitness News

The Doctor Will See You Now

A doctor’s basic physical exam typically includes these steps.

You’re at the doctor’s office for your annual well-check visit or because you’re sick. After waiting in the waiting room (hopefully for not too long), you’re taken back to a room where you wait for the doctor. In the meantime, a nurse asks a few questions and does a few tests. When the doctor finally arrives, he asks more questions and does a few more tests.

What are all the tests for and what do they show? You’re about to find out.

Blood Pressure

By taking your blood pressure, the doctor can tell a lot about the health of your circulatory system. A reading over 130/80 mm/Hg is considered high. High blood pressure is a serious condition that puts you at serious risk for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, metabolic syndrome, kidney problems, and dementia. Catch it early enough and you can make necessary diet, lifestyle, and medication changes to prevent further health problems.

Heart Rate

While fit and active people may have a pulse lower than 60 beats per minute and still have a healthy heart, a normal pulse is between 60 and 100. Anything below or above these is considered abnormal and may signal heart problems that need to be addressed.


The average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but you may still be in good health if your temperature is slightly below or above this. Your doctor takes your temperature to check for fever, which signals infection, inflammatory conditions, or cancer.

Heart and Lung Exam

By listening to your heart with a stethoscope, your doctor may be able to hear irregularities in your heartbeat, a murmur, or other abnormalities that may require further testing. While at it, your doctor will listen to your breathing and ask you to take a few deep breaths. Wheezing, crackles, or shortness of breath may indicate lung issues.

Head and Neck Exam

When the doctor asks you to open your mouth and say “ah,” it’s to get a look at your throat, tonsils, and general mouth health. Your physician may also look in your ears to check for signs of infection or inflammation. The doctor may gently rub the sides of your neck to feel for enlarged lymph nodes that may signal infection.

Abdominal Exam

Moving down the body, your doctor may ask you to lie back on the table in order to examine your abdomen. By gently tapping or pressing, the doctor may detect any tenderness or inflammation in an abdominal organ or excess fluid in the abdomen that could signal disease.

General Appearance

A lot of information can be gathered by how you look, move, and speak. Without you having to explain, your doctor may gather that you’re feeling ill, having mental health issues, or are physically impaired.

Male/Female Exams

A regular physical exam may also include a basic examination of the reproductive system. For men, this includes exams to check for tenderness, swelling, or lumps in the testicles, along with tests to check for hernias, sexually transmitted diseases, and prostate health.

A woman will have a breast exam to check for lumps or abnormalities. A pelvic exam can detect cancers, sexually transmitted diseases, or other gynecological conditions.

Lab Work

Unless a problem is detected, lab work may not be required during a physical exam. Some doctors may order a complete blood count test (to check for signs of infection, anemia, dehydration, and vitamin deficiencies), a urinalysis (to check for infection, diabetes, or kidney disease), or a chemistry panel (to check for blood sugar, protein, and electrolyte levels).

All that said, the questions and tests given at your physician’s office aren’t meaningless. Rather, they guide your physician to determine what health issues you’re experiencing, including any that you may be unaware are affecting you. So answer the questions honestly and be patient with the testing, knowing your good health is being protected.