During a health assessment, your doctor will evaluate your health by performing a physical examination in addition to taking a detailed medical history. Health assessments allow healthcare providers to detect diseases and abnormalities that can affect your health.
The main components of a health assessment include inspection, palpitation, percussion, auscultation, and neurological examination.
5 components of a physical examination
- Typically the first step in the physical examination
- Typically involves visualizing or observing specific areas of the body for color, shape, and overall appearance
- Certain findings on inspection may alert the healthcare provider to focus on other parts of the physical examination
- Areas that are commonly inspected during a health assessment may include:
- Skin: To look for pallor, jaundice, bruises, cuts, moles, or lumps
- Face and eyes: To analyze whether there are any concerning features, such as drooping of the eyes or corner of the mouth
- Neck veins: To locate any bulging or distension (swelling)
- Chest and abdomen: To check for any masses or bulges
- Legs: To visualize swelling or vein varicosity
- Elbows and joints: To check for swelling and deformities
- Involves feeling for abnormalities using hands or fingers during the physical examination
- The examiner will feel for an organ or a mass and assess the size, location, texture, consistency, or tenderness of any lumps or growths
- Areas that are commonly palpated during a health assessment include:
- Involves tapping body parts with the help of hands, fingers, or certain instruments
- Done to detect or assess:
- Size, consistency, and borders of various organs.
- Presence of fluid or gas in some areas of the body.
- Tapping typically produces a sound that may indicate the type of tissue within a particular organ:
- Involves listening to certain sounds and is typically done by using a stethoscope, which amplifies sounds
- Areas that may undergo auscultation include:
- Neck: A swishing sound may suggest a narrowing of the arteries
- Heart: Normally produces a lub-dub sound due to the opening and closure of the heart valves; the healthcare provider will listen for abnormalities or murmurs, which may be normal and not life-threatening or indicate a problem.
- Lungs: Involves placing the stethoscope on the back (posterior) or on the front of the chest wall (anterior) to confirm normal lung sounds and rule out a blockage or narrowing of airways or the presence of fluid
- Abdomen: Uses a stethoscope to listen for swishing sounds of blood moving through the arteries near the stomach (mainly the aorta) or abnormal bowel sounds
5. Neurological examination
- Cranial nerve assessment: Evaluates nerve function
- Motor function assessment: Checks gait, muscle strength, and coordination
- Sensory function assessment: Checks sensations along certain pathways, such as pain, temperature, position sense, and touch.
- Reflexes: Help assess the status of the central nervous system, indicating the intactness of the pathways to and from the spinal cord.
What is the purpose of a health assessment?
The purpose of a health assessment is to gain an understanding of your overall health, including mental, physical, and sexual health. Health assessments highlight whether any interventions need to be made.
Most life-threatening diseases, including type II diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, can be prevented with early intervention and measures such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and quitting smoking.
Specific screening tests may be performed depending on the patient’s age and health status:
- Medical history: The examiner will inquire about any new health issues you may be experiencing along with your past medical history and family medical history.
- Measurements: The examiner may document your weight and measure your vitals, including your pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate.
- Current medications: The examiner will ask about any medications you are currently taking and whether you are taking them as directed.
- Health education: Health screening also includes some health education, whereby the practitioner provides feedback about your diet, weight, and activity levels, highlighting areas for improvement.
Apart from health assessments, diagnosis of diseases often involves laboratory studies and sometimes imaging studies.
Who should have regular health assessments?
The following people should undergo regular health screenings:
- Children: Children who are receiving vaccinations as part of the National Immunization Program are eligible for the Healthy Kids Check.
- Adults aged 40-49: Adults aged 40-49 should undergo a health assessment every 3 years to evaluate their risk of type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases.
- People over age 75: People who are older than 75 years should receive health assessments on an annual basis.
- People with intellectual disabilities: People with mental health conditions should be evaluated for health risks on an annual basis.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Physical examination. EAU Patient Information: https://patients.uroweb.org/tests/physical-examination/
The Physical Examination. NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361/
Physical Examination. Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/17366-physical-examination
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