Teen Talk, 8-1-13, Most Common Medical Conditions during Adolescence

Posted at 6:26 AM, Aug 01, 2013
and last updated 2014-06-18 11:52:07-04


It is time to get ready for school and as the beginning of the school year approaches my teenage girls and I talk about readiness for academic preparation and we’ve also talked about taking care of them from a physical standpoint. What medical conditions have you seen that are most likely to occur during adolescence? I want to make sure as a parent that I am on top of possible health conditions that may crop up during the high school years.


That is a wonderful question. There are indeed multiple common medical conditions and disorders that crop up during adolescence. This is a good place to begin…..

1. Communicable diseases are typically the most likely ones to crop up initially. These would include the common cold, strep throat, pink eye, whooping cough and gastroenteritis. What is interesting about gastroenteritis is that it is a highly contagious condition spread by contact such as sharing food or eating and drinking from contaminated utensils. So the smart thing to tell your teen is; don’t share your utensils.

2. Recurrent headaches are also a frequent complaint among adolescents and young adults. Almost 75% of teens by age fifteen have experienced headaches. Most recurrent headaches in adolescence are not associated with severe pathology, however, if it persists then one has to determine whether or not there is a pattern of classic migraine or cluster headaches and this needs to be reviewed with the primary care physician.

3. Sleep Issues. Sleep disorders can be a common problem in teens as either a major complaint or just periodic insomnia or hyper insomnia. Most teens require eight to nine hours of sleep. Teens with sleep problems should be asked about the type of problem. A medical condition that often crops up when sleep continues to be a problem is asthma. This needs to be reviewed.

4. Fatigue. You’re going to hear teens complain about fatigue, being exhausted. Part of this is just the getting back to the transition of a schedule that requires multiple demands, physical demands, sometimes dieting or allergic reactions. However, when fatigue is characterized by severe disabling, a combination of symptoms of not being able to manage the demands of the day. Again, your primary care physician needs to be consulted. But it is a very common complaint among adolescents. Chronic fatigue syndrome.

5. Chest pains. Teens frequently experience chest pain. Chest pain is talked about on a regular basis. This too needs to be navigated with the primary care physician. Hypertension and high cholesterol, once never associated with adolescence has been cropping up as part of issues that are concurrent with the adolescent years.

6. Mental health issues. Again, we talk so often about mental health issues, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional, impulsive, inattentive behaviors are also likely to appear during adolescence. As the demands mount for adolescence, these common conditions may occur. The increased vulnerability to these conditions are often brought on by simply just the changes in schedules or environmental stressors such as illness or separation. Again, the rule of thumb is that if these changes in emotional behaviors run more than six weeks, it is probably smart to contact a mental health professional.

7. Weight Fluctuations. Weight fluctuations are also a normal part of physical development for teenagers. When weight gain is severe, sudden, or accompanies additional symptoms, an underlying medical condition may exist. As so, unexpected weight loss in teenagers may develop as a side effect from certain medications, from thyroid to emotional issues. Certainly when there is significant weight gain or loss, this is a symptom that needs to be addressed.

8. Hygiene Problems. A little known fact but still a problem for many teenage parents is the emergence of body odor issues which is a difficult thing to talk about with your children or with counselors, but this is certainly an issue to be mindful of.

9. Sports safety. Make sure your teen is hydrated. For those playing sports, any kind of physical injuries that occur most certainly needs to have a clear look. Concussions have become prominent in news, particularly among athletes, so careful post-concussion evaluation of injured student athletes is essential for parents who are about to embark on the path toward sports. There are indeed new concussion guidelines so parents it is important that you be very aware of continuing problems with dizziness, clumsiness, balance problems or blurry vision after a concussion out on the sports field.

10. Social Media Dynamics. Significant changes in behavior and online addiction is most likely to occur during adolescent years so parents make sure you monitor all social media.

11. Caffeine and Energy Drink Overexposure. The use of caffeine and energy drinks conceivably are health hazards for adolescents. When energy drinks are mixed with alcohol, the potential dangers for blood pressure, tachycardia and other medical problems emerge and this is a potential health issue.

12. Overuse of Over the Counter Medications. It is also important to monitor the use of over the counter medications used by your teens. Pain relievers, caffeine medicines, diet pills, laxatives, motion sickness pills, Sudafeds, herbals, are also likely to be misused during adolescence.

13. Eating Disorders or disordered eating patterns are likely to emerge during adolescence.

14. Finally, the use of substances including alcohol, marijuana, pills emerging in their lives. All of these are common health issues that can crop up during adolescence. Be aware.