Most teens visit their family doctor at least once a year for a physical but many find it uncomfortable to talk with them about the things that really matter. After all, this is the doctor that you had as a child, often a pediatrician. And this doctor usually seems pretty close to your parents. You may worry that sharing private things with your doctor may end up being shared immediately with your parents and wonder what your rights to privacy are. But even asking makes can make you uncomfortable so you may sit quietly throughout the exam, muttering one syllable answers when you could be taking advantage of a time when you could get really good information and answers to burning questions.
The truth is, every state has different rules about privacy for teens, otherwise called confidentiality. Some states provide full confidentiality for teens, some none at all and most fall somewhere in between. Most teen confidentiality is focused around reproductive health. This is because health care providers realize that teens are apt to be more truthful about what is going on with their bodies if they feel that their information is going to be kept private. Below is a link to a website with more information on teen confidentiality so you can find what the rules are for your state. But if you are still unsure, feel free to call your pediatricianís office and ask outright.
So, once you have your confidentiality rights clear, you need to think about things that you want to ask your doctor. It is a good idea to think about your body in terms of systems: digestive, respiratory, nervous, reproductive, muscular, skeletal, skin and so on. Have you noticed anything unusual in any of them?
Some common problems that affect teens are:
But of course anything else unusual needs to be addressed whether it is a common teen ailment or not.
Now, there are also the embarrassing but very so important questions. People (teens and adults alike) are most likely not to tell their doctors about very important things because of embarrassment more than anything else. Try to remember, though that your doctor has probably seen and heard worse than anything you could ever tell him or her and he or she is trained to be able to provide you unbiased information and treatment without judging you.
So, be sure to tell your doctor if you have been having trouble urinating or having bowel movements. Tell him or her if you have been vomiting or have skin rashes in weird places. Not only could your doctor make you feel more at ease through information and treatment but he or she could also help you prevent something more serious if you tell him or her right away.
It is also important to be honest with your doctor about your sexuality and this can be the hardest part for a teenager. Talking about sex, especially when it is about you, is really really uncomfortable but if you doctor doesnít have accurate information about you he or she cannot protect your health in really important ways. So, tell your doctor if you have pain or anything unusual happening with your genitals and if you have been sexually active. This doesnít just mean intercourse but also oral sex and heavy making-out because this can transfer sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) from one person to another. Also, even if you feel uncomfortable, this can be a really good time to ask your doctor your questions about sex that you donít want to ask your parents and you know your friends donít know any more than you do.
So remember, your doctor is there to help you and is a resource for you as long as you do your best to be honest and ask your questions. If nothing else, getting answers from a doctor about your body and your health can give you peace of mind.