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Endometriosis in Teens

Endometriosis is an ongoing condition that happens when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, especially in the abdominal and pelvic areas. Painful or heavy problem periods are common symptoms. In the United States, it is estimated that 6.5 million women and girls as young as eight suffer from endometriosis, and 89 million worldwide.1 It often begins in an adolescent’s early teens with the start of menstrual periods, and gets worse over time. In adults, endometriosis has been associated with chronic pelvic pain and problems becoming pregnant. While no one knows the exact cause of endometriosis, it is common in families.

The good news for girls having symptoms of endometriosis is that Children’s Mercy is here to help. We offer several treatment options and a team of experts from multiple disciplines, all trained to specifically address endometriosis in teens.

Symptoms and diagnosis

 

Research studies have indicated that 38% of those with endometriosis have symptoms before the age of 15; yet, it takes an astounding average of over nine years to receive a correct diagnosis and treatment. This means that much of a child’s youth may be spent suffering unexplained, often crippling pain which greatly hinders her development.1

The most common symptoms of endometriosis are painful menstrual periods associated with cramping and lower abdominal pain. Occasionally, your daughter may have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and changes in urination. While mild cramping may be common with normal menstrual cycles, endometriosis pain is severe, does not respond to usual mild pain relievers and, over time, may lead to daily pelvic pain.

Endometriosis can only be diagnosed by looking directly into the abdomen during a procedure called a laparoscopy. During this procedure, the doctor can take a small piece of tissue from the affected area. This is called a biopsy and examination of the tissue under a microscope can confirm endometriosis.

Why treatment is important


While there is no cure for endometriosis, early diagnosis and treatment have been shown to improve the lives of teen girls affected. The youngest victims of this disease are often the most neglected. This is, in part, due to the still common belief that endometriosis does not affect this age group, but it is also because they are too embarrassed or confused to talk about their symptoms.1

Delayed or inadequate treatment can result in:

  • Chronic daily pain
  • Severe menstrual symptoms
  • Compromised fertility
  • Missed school days
  • Diminished quality of life

Several medications have been shown to help and treatments are individualized. Often, physical therapy and pain management can help your child cope much better with the symptoms of endometriosis and resume the activities she enjoys.

 

Endometriosis Program at Children’s Mercy

 


At Children’s Mercy, we recognize the need to create a centralized program where teenagers can be diagnosed and treated for endometriosis. We also bring a multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach to our program. This enables your daughter to benefit from a variety of therapies, treatment options and perspectives that care for the whole person.

Children's Mercy is an American College of Surgeons Verified Center

We offer early surgical diagnosis of girls with painful and problem periods. This approach to treatment includes:

  • Many medical options
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Pain management
  • Psychological support and ongoing care to support girls handling the problems associated with endometriosis

Ultimately, the program aims to treat girls with endometriosis and help them to manage their symptoms so they can live normal, active lives. Plus, we provide information and help your daughter get support services designed specifically for teens.

Treatment options


Treatment begins with finding the right diagnosis. Many girls have been told that “this is just regular cramps,” which can be a barrier to seeking care and may cause stress. They often have not heard of endometriosis or have not seen doctors who specialize in teen endometriosis. Some treatment options we offer include:

  • Laparoscopy and Tissue Removal:
    Removal of all visible endometriosis at the time of diagnostic surgery often helps with the symptoms for some time.

  • Hormone Therapy:
    After your daughter is diagnosed with endometriosis, she may opt to use a variety of hormonal treatments to treat cramping and suppress menstruation. These include oral contraceptive pills, progesterone pills or shots, and progesterone implanted IUDs. This often helps with the pain and puts the endometriosis in an “inactive” state. Occasionally, she may need more aggressive options to suppress all of her natural hormones. Injections, oral medications or, occasionally, implants, may be recommended. Other medications, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), help with pain.

  • Physical Therapy and Pain Management:
    Physical therapy often helps the pelvic muscles to relax and is helpful to relieve pain. Pain management and alternative therapies help manage the way your child perceives pain and provides methods for coping with pain.

All treatment options are considered in order to develop a plan that is just right for your child. Once established as a patient in the Endometriosis Program, a team of doctors, nurses and other professionals continually monitors your child's progress, adjusting course as needed.

 

References

  1. Endometriosis Association website. Accessed July 3, 2020. https://endometriosisassn.org/