Physical examination – Overview
The use of physical examination to determine the health of people is not new. Medical literature reveals that periodic health examinations were required of the Spartans of an ancient Greece. American doctors have encouraged periodic health examination of children and adults as a preventive health measure since so many years ago. But only in the last few decades has the general public accepted the idea that much physical disorder can be detected in the earliest stages by an examining physician and corrective measures prescribed to ensure the maximum number of productive years for the patient. Heart disease, Cancer
, hypertension, and glaucoma are just a few examples of diseases that a doctor can detect during a routine physical examination long before disabling symptoms begin to be noticeable to the patient.
The Pap Smear test for a woman is a specific example of an examination technique that can predict the development of cervical cancer several years before the woman might notice signs and symptoms of the insidious disease.
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On the other hand, physical examinations may determine that bothersome symptoms do not Herald a dangerous disease. A man who suffers from abdominal pains and fears he has stomach cancer would be relieved to learn after an examination that the problem is only nervous tension, which can be corrected by other means. Heart palpitations and breathlessness similarly might be found through a doctors examination to be due to anxiety rather than heart disease.
The Importance of Periodic Physicals
Health examinations for most countries, unfortunately, tend to be sporadic. During infancy and upon entering school, there may be detailed physical examinations, followed by possibly additional checkups during later childhood when required by the local educational system, and finally, a thorough examination for persons entering the military service or applying for a job or insurance policy.
But there may follow a period of 35 to 45 ” lost year’s” for many persons before they feel the need for a checkup because of the symptoms of one of the degenerative diseases that may appear when they have reached their 50s or 60s. Unfortunately, statistics show that nearly 30 percent of chronic and disabling diseases begin before the age of 35 and about 40 percent appear between the ages of 35 and 55, with evidence that may chronic disabilities actually developed more or less unnoticed by the patient’s during the “lost of years” when periodic physical examinations were considered unnecessary.
What is the four objectives of Periodic Physical examinations?
- To detect abnormalities so that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent disability and premature death, especially from chronic diseases.
- To improve the individuals understanding of health and disease.
- To provide specific preventive health measures such as immunizations and advice about such lifestyle matters as cigarette smoking and weight control.
- To establish good relations between patient and doctor as a basis for continuing health maintenance.