Merck Manual

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Preventive Health Care Visits in Adolescents


Deborah M. Consolini

, MD, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Full review/revision Jul 2021 | Modified Sep 2022

Doctors also may encourage activities such as participation in sports, the arts, and community service. Most doctors interview and examine adolescents privately, although parents may be invited to participate and share concerns and receive their own counseling and guidance at the beginning or end of the visit.


The adolescent's height, weight, and blood pressure are measured at every yearly health care visit. The doctor then does a complete physical examination. Once children become adolescents, certain areas of the body require a more detailed examination. For example, examination of the skin for acne, evaluation of the degree of sexual maturation, and examination of the back for scoliosis Diagnosis Scoliosis is abnormal curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can be present at birth or can develop during adolescence. Mild forms may cause only mild discomfort, but more severe forms can cause... read more Diagnosis are particularly important in adolescence.


A blood cholesterol level test Measuring lipid levels The body needs fats for growth and energy. It also uses them to synthesize hormones and other substances needed for the body’s activities. The body may deposit excess fat in blood vessels and... read more should be done for all children between 9 and 11 years of age and at least once for all adolescents between 17 and 21 years of age. More frequent testing may be recommended for obese adolescents or those with a family history of high cholesterol.

Adolescents are screened for tuberculosis (TB) risk factors at all well-child visits. Risk factors include exposure to TB, being born in or having traveled to areas of the world where TB is common (countries other than the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and Western and North European countries), having a family member who has TB, and having parents or close contacts who are recent immigrants from an area where TB is common or who have recently been in jail. Those with risk factors then usually have tuberculosis screening tests Screening Tests for Tuberculosis Tuberculosis is a chronic contagious infection caused by the airborne bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs, but almost any organ can be involved. Tuberculosis... read more Screening Tests for Tuberculosis done.

All people should be routinely screened for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection at least once between the ages of 18 and 79. People at increased risk of HCV infection, including those who have used or who currently use injection drugs, should be tested for HCV infection and reassessed every year.


Nutrition and exercise

Overweight and obesity Obesity in Adolescents Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than the 95th percentile for age and gender. Although genetics and some disorders cause obesity, most adolescent obesity results... read more are common in the United States and are associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes (formerly called non–insulin-dependent diabetes). To combat the risk of obesity, parents should continue to provide adolescents with healthy food choices and limit their intake of unhealthy foods. Soda and excessive fruit juice drinking have been implicated as major contributors to obesity.

Inactivity is directly linked to obesity. Parents should try to limit the amount of time their adolescent spends watching television, playing video games, or participating in noneducational computer time. Participation in sports and physical activity should continue to be encouraged as adolescents age.

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