At any visit to the doctor, he’ll start by taking you through some standard tests. If he doesn’t spot anything wrong during a test, he moves on to the next one, usually without a word. It’s natural to wonder what exactly your doctor is looking for during this procedure. Here are the most common tests doctors will perform and why they do so:
Checking Out the Inside of Your Mouth
Your doctor will have you open wide and then shine a flashlight in your mouth for a few reasons. Even though he isn’t a dentist, he can still inspect your teeth and gums for any glaring issues. He’ll see if there is anything wrong with your tonsils or the back of your throat. Doctors also check the tongue for any growths or white areas, which can be warning signs for cancer.
Putting a Stethoscope on Your Chest
When the doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your chest, he’s listen to two very important organs – your heart and your lungs. With your heart, the doctor will listen for a normal, steady rhythm, ensuring that your heart isn’t murmuring or skipping any beats. He’ll listen to your lungs to determine if your breathing clearly.
Asking You to Stare at a Light
The primary purpose of this test is to see if your pupils constrict and dilate normally. A pupil that is functioning normally will constrict when light hits it and dilate when it gets darker. When a doctor shines his flashlight in your eye, he wants to see if both pupils constrict and remain round. If either or both pupils don’t, this could indicate issues with the eye or brain. The doctor can also notice any changes in your eyes during this test, which could indicate another condition, such as glaucoma or high blood pressure.
Putting an Otoscope in Your Ear
Considering the size and darkness of the ear canal, it’s not easy to see inside, which is why doctors use otoscopes. Looking through the otoscope could help your doctor diagnose irritation in your eardrum, swelling in the ear canal, infections and other common ear issues. An otoscope can also puff air into your ear canal to determine if your ear pressure is off.
Pressing Your Stomach
When your doctor instructs you to lie down on your back and then starts pressing your stomach with his hands, he’s simply looking for anything abnormal. This could be a growth, something that’s off when you inhale or an area that’s firmer than it should be.
Turning Your Head and Coughing
This is one test that only the men need to do, and when a doctor does it, he’s seeing if you have any symptoms of an inguinal hernia. Coughing flexes your abdominal muscles, and if you have an inguinal hernia, this could cause part of either your bowel or your intestine to pass into the scrotum. The doctor will be able to feel this in your scrotum. As far as turning your head is concerned, that has nothing to do with the test. The doctor simply tells you to do that so you don’t cough on him and spread germs.
Bloodwork is typically done annually, and the purpose is to check for any issues that wouldn’t cause symptoms right away. For example, you could have high cholesterol, a deficiency in a certain vitamin or mineral, or kidney disease for years without exhibiting symptoms, during which time the condition may become worse. Checking your blood ensures that the doctor can catch these potential problems right away. The doctor can also have your blood tested for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Checking Your Heartrate and Blood Pressure
The doctor or a nurse will perform both of these to see that you’re within the normal ranges. A normal heartrate is anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, although some exceptionally fit individuals have lower heartrates. Anything higher or abnormally low, though, is cause for concern. An ideal blood pressure is 110/70. If yours is too high or low, it’s important to take steps to correct it to avoid more serious issues later.
The Knee Tap
When your doctor uses a small, pointy hammer to tap right underneath your knee, it’s a simple test of your reflexes. The tap should cause a small kick forward.
Slipping One Finger into the Rectum
As you get older, your doctor will perform this test to check for warning signs of rectal cancer. For men, the doctor can also feel the prostate during this test to see if there is anything that could indicate a problem, such as prostate cancer.
Getting a Urine Sample
Like bloodwork, urine analysis can indicate if you have any conditions that aren’t showing any symptoms yet. This includes diabetes, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney stones. A woman’s urine analysis will also note if she’s pregnant. Doctors can check for several of the most common STDs through urine samples, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, but not every STD will show up this way.
Taking Your Height and Weight
Your doctor checks your height and weight to determine if you’re within a healthy weight range. Body mass index (BMI) is a common calculation doctors use for this. Every height and weight combination corresponds to a BMI number, and each number will fall in the underweight, healthy, overweight or obese category. Your doctor will also see if you’ve experienced any major weight fluctuations since your previous visit.
You should now have a better idea of why your doctor and his nurses perform all these tests every time you come in, or every year for certain tests, such as bloodwork. Keep in mind that your doctor will always let you know if he spots any problems or potential concerns. When it comes to your check-up, no news tends to be good news.