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Physical Problems in Adolescents

By Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Director, Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, Boston Children's Hospital

Adolescents are susceptible to the same kinds of illnesses that affect younger children but generally they are a healthy group. Adolescents should continue to receive vaccinations according to the recommended schedule.

Acne is extremely common and should be addressed to minimize its impact on self-esteem.

Injuries are very common among adolescents, and sports-related and motor vehicle injuries are most frequent. Motor vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide are the four leading causes of death among adolescents. Concussions, or brain injury resulting from head trauma, are common, particularly among athletes. Adolescents who suffer a head injury should be evaluated by a coach, trainer, or physician. After a concussion, adolescents should be given time to recuperate before returning to regular activities, including use of electronic devices, schoolwork, and sports. Re-entry into these activities should be supervised by a knowledgeable adult.

Disorders that are common among all adolescents include

Disorders that are common among adolescent girls include

Many adolescents do not routinely use effective methods of contraception, and some of them become pregnant.

Although not common, cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, bone cancers, and brain tumors also occur.

Children who have many different symptoms that are not clearly the result of a specific disorder are usually also evaluated for psychosocial problems.