It seems like only yesterday when you brought in your precious bundle of joys for their first well visits. And the responsible parents whom you are, you brought them regularly through their infant, toddler and school years for their well visits, making sure they grow and develop normally and receive their vaccines.

Now they’re adolescents and teenagers!  Your children are questioning you and wondering why do they still need to come in for an annual well visit?

Simply put, the annual physical exam is an important aspect of staying healthy for the rest of your life!   

Adolescence is one of the most dynamic stages of human development. It is a “moving target,” punctuated by dramatic physical, cognitive, social, and emotional change. Because of the rapid development occurring, many physical and mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and health risk behaviors can first emerge. And we want both the body and mind to continue to grow and develop in the most healthy ways.

A typical adolescent exam includes a review of the medical history. The patient and/or parents often raise concerns in a safe, comfortable and confidential environment.  BOTH Meningitis Vaccines are also discussed in adolescent, teen annual exams.

During the physical exam, typically, the doctor will examine the eyes, ears, nose, throat, mouth, abdomen, back, legs, arms, and thyroid gland. In addition, the doctor will complete an assessment of growth and evaluate pubertal changes. Screening for hypertension, scoliosis, and obesity may be performed. Scoliosis is when there is a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine. Identified and treated early, it is a “curable” condition that improves the quality of a person’s life.

Parents of teenage boys – Prepare your sons to expect a genital exam by a doctor. An exam “down there” is typically less than one minute and can yield important information. Earlier this summer, because of the well exam, I diagnosed a patient with testicular cancer. It was terrifying for all, including me. Baruch Hashem, his prognosis is excellent.

It’s no secret that adolescents can be more likely to engage in activities that risk their overall health, including smoking, the use and abuse of alcohol, and other substances, unprotected sex, poor eating and exercise habits, and other physically-endangering behaviors. Therefore, well visits provide opportunities for early identification and appropriate management and intervention for conditions and behaviors that, if not addressed, can become serious and persist into adulthood.  More information on this in our article “not in our backyard“.

And you should expect your teen to complete a depression screening of about 7-9 questions. This will help your physician to identify of your teen is depressed and at risk thereof and develop modalities for intervention.

Having a healthy body, mind and spirit is a gift from Hashem and is no small feat. Let’s partner with Him to make sure it happens.

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