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Physical Exam

photo os a stethoscope on a medical record

Most healthy patients enjoy the yearly physical exam recommended by our practice and consider it as inexpensive insurance that they’re even healthier than they feel. Other patients consider the process as a type of emergency alarm that catches health conditions or problems before they develop into serious diseases. Because the annual physical exam is an important part of the doctor’s diagnostic tools, it’s an important visit. The doctor may schedule a thorough and rigorous exam or a relatively brief one depending upon the patient’s medical profile and needs. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine recommends an annual exam for all patients. The exam usually begins with the patient’s medical history, so the patient should plan to discuss any concerns or recent health experiences with the doctor at this time. This is also the doctor’s time to ask about lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking, diet, exercise/activity and alcohol consumption. Sexual health may also be discussed with those who are sexually active. The doctor or nurse will then take the patient’s vital signs, including:

  • Blood pressure (BP): a value of less than 120 over 80 is considered normal. Medical researchers say that hypertension (high blood pressure) is confirmed at 140 over 90 or greater.
  • Heart rate (HR): a value of 60 to 100 is normal. Some very fit people have slow HRs of less than 60. The doctor is likely to know the patient is a runner, swimmer, cyclist, etc.
  • Respiration rate (RR): a value of approximately 16 is considered normal. A rate of more than 20 is suggestive of lung or heart issues.
  • Body temperature: the normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees F. Healthy people may have minimally higher or lower temperatures.

Patient’s Appearance

The doctor will determine some facts and information by seeing and speaking with the patient. His or her mental acuity and memory are usually apparent. The appearance of skin is an important consideration. The doctor notes whether the patient sits, stands, and walks with ease.

Arms, Legs, Hands, Feet Exam

The doctor evaluates the patient’s extremities ad checks pulses in each. Joint examination can present disease clues.

Dermatology Exam

In addition to the casual observation of the appearance of the patient’s skin, the doctor will look closely at the texture and color of the skin and the appearance of the nails. Dermatology issues can indicate the presence of many diseases. If the dermatology exam yields the possibility of a dermatological disease, Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine accesses the in-practice dermatology specialist for the patient’s evaluation.

Head/Neck Exam

The patient is usually asked to say “AHHHH” in order for the doctor to look at the throat. He will also look at teeth and gums. The ear-nose-throat (ENT) area enables the doctor to assess sinuses, eyes, thyroid, carotid arteries, and lymph nodes as well as the ears, nose, and throat.

Heart/Lungs Exam

The patient’s heart and lungs are checked with a stethoscope. The doctor listens for clues concerning heart disease. An irregular heartbeat or heart murmur can indicate problems. Similarly, the doctor listens for problems in the patient’s lungs. Decreased sounds of breath, wheezing, or crackling can indicate lung or heart diseases.

Abdomen Exam

The doctor will tap on the patient’s abdomen to evaluate the liver size and position, or to detect any fluid in the abdomen. He will use a stethoscope to listen to the patient’s bowel sounds or touch (palpate) the area to determine any soreness or tenderness.

Gender-Specific Elements

A man’s exam will include evaluation of the testicles, a hernia test, and a penile and prostate exam. These tests help the doctor identify serious diseases like cancer or sexually transmitted infections, including HPV warts on the penis. The female exam can include a pelvic assessment, including the cervix, vulva, and vagina. The doctor may perform a Pap smear to test for cancer of the cervix if the patient hasn’t had one in a year or more. A breast exam checks for lumps or bumps that may indicate breast cancer or some benign breast issues. The patient’s underarm lymph nodes are also checked at this time.

Sports Exam

Many patients and members of the family need a physical exam for a specific purpose, such as clearance to play sports. Since reports of athletic-related deaths are often preventable, a pre-participation exam is often required by schools and organizations related to a sports team. Pre-participation exams are endorsed and supported by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA). The doctor collects a complete patient medical history as well as a family history to assess the young person’s general health. Any concerns or symptoms should be discussed with the doctor. The goal of the sports exam is to identify young patients who may have health risks when playing sports. The family practitioner (FP) treating the young person is best qualified to perform the sports exam. Since the doctor knows the patient’s medical history and, in some cases, has treated the patient since birth, he is best qualified to assess the patient’s health. A sports exam is important because no family wants to lose a child due to an unforeseen medical problem. Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine will accommodate the patient’s needs when the physical must be performed within a short time frame.


There are many reasons to have an annual medical exam. The best place to obtain the exam is at the FP’s office. Patients in and around greater metro Atlanta, North Atlanta, Roswell, Johns Creek, Dawsonville, Alpharetta, and Suwanee should contact Dr. Zack Charkawi to schedule a medical exam today at 770-771-6591.