What does an annual physical for a woman include?

For some women, the annual physical examination is a source of reassurance that they’re as healthy as they feel. Others see it as an alarm system, to catch health problems before they become serious.  What can you expect from your annual physical exam?

The Basics:

  • History – This is your chance to mention any complaints or concerns about your health.  Your doctor will also likely quiz you about important behaviors, like smoking, excessive alcohol use, sexual health, diet, and exercise.  The doctor will also check on your vaccination status and update your personal and family medical history.
  • Vital Signs – These are some vital signs checked by your doctor:
    • Blood pressure
    • Heart rate
    • Respiration rate
    • Temperature
  • General Appearance – Your doctor gathers a large amount of information about you and your health just by watching and talking to you.  How is your memory and mental quickness? Does your skin appear healthy? Can you easily stand and walk?
  • Heart Exam – Listening to your heart with a stethoscope, a doctor might detect an irregular heartbeat, a heart murmur, or other clues to heart disease.
  • Lung Exam – Using a stethoscope, a doctor listens for crackles, wheezes, or decreased breath sounds.  These can be clues to the presence of heart or lung disease.
  • Head and Neck Exam – Opening up and saying “ah” shows off your throat and tonsils.  The quality of your teeth and gums also provides information about your overall health.  Ears, nose, sinuses, eyes, lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries are also examined.
  • Abdominal Exam – Your doctor can use a range of examination techniques including tapping your abdomen to detect liver size and presence of abdominal fluid, listening for bowel sounds with a stethoscope, and palpating for tenderness.
  • Neurological Exam – Nerves, muscle strength, reflexes, balance, and mental state are assessed.
  • Dermatological Exam – Skin and nail findings could indicate a dermatological problem or disease somewhere else in the body.
  • Extremities Exam – Your doctor will look for physical and sensory changes.  Pulses can be checked in your arms and legs.  Examining joints can assess for abnormalities.