• Dr Peter Chew

Endometriosis and teenagers

Endometriosis is a chronic disease where the lining of the womb (endometrial tissues) is spilled into the surrounding organs– fallopian tubes, ovaries and the back of the womb.

Many years ago, the medical teaching had been that young girds do not get endometriosis. As a result, many women with endometriosis were diagnosed late. According to one study, it could take up to 10 years from the onset of menstrual pain before a diagnosis of endometriosis was made. This was because many physicians did not believe the disease could affect teenagers.

Current research has shown a completely opposite picture. Endometriosis is present in about two-thirds of adolescent girls with chronic pelvic pain and menstrual pain and is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. In another study in which more than 4000 women with endometriosis were surveyed, two-thirds experienced symptoms when they were adolescents. All these studies indicate that menstrual and pelvic pain in young girls should not be taken lightly.

Early diagnosis is important in the management. Adolescents who do not respond to simple pain killers and who have findings suggestive of endometriosis on physical examination should have a laparoscopy done. This is a procedure in which a long thin telescope with a high-intensity light and a high-resolution camera at the front is introduced into the pelvic cavity to visualise the pelvic organs. The affected area is burned, lasered or excised. Relief of pain after the operation can be dramatic. But the patient has to be reminded that recurrence is common and further medications may be necessary.

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