Glossary of Medical Terms

Physical Exam

During a physical exam, a health professional looks at, listens to, and touches or gently presses on (palpates) the body. This exam helps the health professional determine the cause of symptoms, what other conditions may be present, and what medical tests may be needed. During a physical exam, the health professional may:

  • Take the person's temperature.

  • Listen to the heart and lungs.

  • Examine the eyes with an ophthalmoscope.

  • Examine the ears with an otoscope.

  • Touch or gently press on (palpate) the neck, underarms, abdomen, and groin.

  • Look at the skin.

  • Check the person's balance and coordination. 

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