Common Teen Health Issues with Dr. Donna

As a parent with a teenage son or daughter, it can be difficult to ensure the health and well-being of your children. Teenagers can often be secretive, which makes it difficult to ensure they are getting the proper health screenings and care they need. I treat adolescents for a variety of health issues, but the most common problems include trouble sleeping, drug/alcohol abuse, eating disorders and acne. Quite often, a teen is afraid to open up to their parents about their health issues, but it is important to be as supportive and observant as possible.

Trouble Sleeping

Sleep issues are extremely common among teenagers. Many factors can cause sleep problems including social media, overloaded schedules and puberty. While most sleep problems are unlikely to lead to any life-threatening issues, excessive tiredness can be a sign of greater problems. It takes commitment for parents or guardians to build healthy sleeping habits for their teens and help them realize the importance of sleep and how it greatly improves their performance at school and daily life activities. Some sleep problems can be so severe due to underlying medical cases like sleep apnea or depression. However, it is recommended to consult a health provider.

Drug / Alcohol Abuse

As a teenager, especially living in Bangkok, it is very easy to be exposed to drugs and alcohol. Wanting to fit in, seem cool or take risks; a teenager may be at risk of substance abuse. Those with family history of substance abuse or those experiencing troubles at home are more at risk of substance abuse. In Thailand, substances like cannabis, tobacco, alcohol and methamphetamine are widely available. It is important to talk to your children openly about substance abuse and show them that you are willing to listen and be supportive. If your child has tried substances out of curiosity a few times, a small talk may be all that is necessary. However, early onset of drugs and alcohol abuse can be very serious later on in life often leading to dependence and addiction. It is vital that action is taken as early as possible if your child seems to be addicted. Treatments include detoxification, medicine and counselling.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are sadly another very common reason I see teen patients. These disorders can come in many different forms, including anorexia (excessive dieting/over-exercising) or bulimia (binge eating followed by forced vomiting). Many times, especially in the beginning, it is extremely hard to catch and it gets progressively worse before proper treatment can be sought. As a parent, it is important to try catch the earlier symptoms, such as, extreme focus on being overweight, strict dieting with binges, depression etc. You should show that you're willing to help and listen without judgment. However, if teens have eating disorders, it is crucial to get them the necessary treatment.


Acne is the least serious medical issue out of the four that I have outlined in this article. It can be caused by changing hormone levels, stress or picking on blemishes etc. However, it can be very important to treat it for some teenagers. Although it may not cause any adverse health issues, for many teens, it can greatly affect their self-esteem. Some adolescents aren’t bothered by their minor acne and are willing to wait it out. For others, it is something they are embarrassed about and it makes them less confident about their appearance. My personal take is that if it is important to your child, it should be taken seriously enough to visit a doctor to discuss treatment options. Most treatments include special ointments (i.e. salicylic acid or benzoic acid) or oral medication. Other medication can be found in the forms of lotion and cream. If your child doesn’t want treatment, it is important to maintain a good diet and a healthy lifestyle to minimise the outbreak of acne as much as possible.


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