You may visit your doctor for a checkup or if you are feeling ill. If you have symptoms, your doctor will ask various questions and carry out an examination to take the first steps towards a diagnosis. Occasionally, this may be all that is needed for your doctor to decide what is causing your illness and what action is needed. In other cases, tests are used to gather more information.
From the moment that you walk into the surgery, your doctor starts to gather information about you from your appearance. This information may provide clues to your general health and state of mind. The doctor obtains further information about your health from a medical history and by performing a physical examination.
The first article in this section looks at the questions that your doctor may ask when taking your medical history. Such questions are an important way of gathering information about past illnesses, disorders that run in your family, and your lifestyle.
Once he or she has taken your history, your doctor may examine you to look for abnormalities or confirm a suspected diagnosis. Some common physical examination procedures are described in the second article. Your doctor may also take samples for testing.
If you need a medical examination for insurance purposes, your doctor will look for early signs of disease or for factors that may increase your risk of developing disease. Routine checkups in childhood and during pregnancy are discussed elsewhere (see Health checkups).
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.