An Adolescent Medicine specialist is a medical doctor who is trained in the unique physical, psychological and social characteristics of adolescents and their health care problems and needs. Adolescent Medicine specialists are usually pediatricians but can also be joined in by psychiatrists, infectious disease specialists, gynecologists, endocrinologists, dermatologists, surgeons, and others.
Adolescents are individuals who have generally entered puberty, which usually begins between the ages of 9 and 11 for girls, and between 11 and 13 for boys. This age of adolescence is uniquely characterized by the surge of reproductive hormones that result in the physical and psychological changes in a growing adolescent.
Common issues dealt with during adolescence include:
- Acne and other common ailments—the hormonal changes during adolescence makes the skin prone to develop pimples and other skin conditions
- Sexually transmitted diseases—the risk-taking behavior of some adolescents, coupled with their lack of knowledge regarding safe sex, make them susceptible to acquire sexually transmitted illnesses
- Substance abuse diagnosis and management—peer pressure and the excitement for adventure at the age of puberty can make these young individuals try illegal drugs and eventually get addicted to them
- Delayed or precocious puberty—in some individuals, the physical changes that characterize puberty can come later or earlier compared to the general population. Delayed or precocious puberty often warrants further investigation to seek the potential serious underlying cause of the abnormality.
- Sports Injuries—the age of puberty is the period when most the young individuals start to regularly engage in sports. Because of this, sports injuries can be common in this age group. These injuries can range from simple muscle strain and sprain to fractures and head contusions.
- Behavior, family and school problems evaluation and counseling—emotional and behavioral problems are also common during puberty. These problems are usually managed by pediatricians and pediatric psychiatrists with the help of the adolescent’s family
- Nutrition and adolescent eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa—the concern for body image is of particular importance during puberty. This makes some adolescents go into dieting routines in an effort to maintain their ideal body image.
Health promotion also plays a big role in Adolescent medicine. Among the topics promoted are the following:
- Family planning, sexuality, pregnancy and general adolescent gynecological care—because adolescents are risk-takers, efforts are made to keep them safe from STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and other sexually-related problems
- Health promotion, education and disease prevention counseling—adolescents are also given instructions on how to prioritize their health and how to form a healthy perception of their body image. Counselling for their emotional and social problems are also given to prevent them from going into depression or engaging in risky behaviors like smoking and illegal drugs.