What Is an Adolescent Medicine Specialist?
Zits. Periods. Pressure to do drugs, drink, or smoke. Too much growth in places you don't expect — and not so much in places you do. There's a lot going on health-wise during the teen years. It helps to have a medical team who understands.
Adolescent medicine specialists have extra training in the medical and emotional issues that many teens face. They're taught to deal with topics like reproductive health, drugs, eating disorders, irregular periods, mood changes, questions about sexual identity, and problems at home or school.
Adolescent medicine specialists are doctors and other medical professionals, like nurse practitioners, who work alongside doctors to provide care.
Seeing an adolescent medicine specialist is a great way to transition from childhood — where your parents controlled your health care — to adulthood, where you manage your own health and well-being.
For girls, many adolescent medicine doctors provide gynecology care as well, including pelvic exams when needed. So if a girl needs to see a pediatrician and a gynecologist, instead of going to two different doctors, she can often can see one adolescent medicine specialist.
How Can I Find One — and What If I Can't?
Start by asking your pediatrician — or your school nurse or health teacher — for recommendations on adolescent medicine specialists. Or search for one on the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine online database.
It's probably easier to find an adolescent medicine specialist if you live near a large town. But don't worry if you can't find one in your area. Pediatricians, family practitioners, and internists know about teen health too, though there may be times when these doctors will send you to a specialist.
If you see a pediatrician or family doctor, ask for extra time to discuss what you need when you call to book your appointment. Or ask to book the last appointment of the day. It can also help to prepare a list of questions and concerns and bring it with you to your appointment.
No matter what type of doctor you decide to see, be open and honest about the things you worry about. The only way a doctor can help you is if he or she knows what's going on. It may be hard to talk about topics like drugs or bumps "down there." But medical practitioners are used to it and they don't judge — it's all medicine to them.
A good doctor should put you at ease. If your doctor doesn't have enough time to listen to you or seems preachy, it's time to find someone who is better suited to your needs.
What's a Typical Visit Like?
If you see an adolescent medicine doctor, you'll probably spend more time talking than you have with doctors in the past. That's especially true if it's your first visit. You might discuss things that aren't even related to why you came to see the doctor in the first place.
Talking like this helps the doctor learn about your background so he or she can tailor health advice (and treatment) to your unique needs. Depending on why you're seeing the doctor, you may have a physical exam.
Adolescent medicine specialists usually try to spend some time with their patients alone. That allows the two of you to talk about confidential issues without other family members in the room. Some doctors will let you make and go to appointments by yourself, without an adult.
Some adolescent medicine doctors have schedules that allow them to spend as much time as needed with patients. But if you have lots of questions, it can't hurt to mention that when you book your appointment.
The teen years are one of the most crucial times for your health. It's just as important to have regular checkups now as when you were a kid to stay healthy and well, now and later in life. Adolescent medicine specialists understand that — and are there to help!