Although people often receive an endometriosis diagnosis in their 30s and 40s, the condition can show symptoms during adolescence. Early diagnosis is key in slowing the progression of the disease.
Endometriosis is a fairly common condition that causes chronic pelvic pain. It happens when tissue similar to the uterine lining grows in places besides the uterus. This tissue can grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, and other abdominal organs.
Experts estimate that more than
Many people do not receive a diagnosis of endometriosis until they are trying to conceive, so it often goes undiagnosed in teenagers. However, endometriosis in teens is relatively common.
Read more to learn about the symptoms of endometriosis in teenagers, how doctors diagnose it, and more.
Yes, teenagers can have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a progressive condition, so many people may have it as adolescents but not be aware of it.
One of the primary defining symptoms of endometriosis is chronic pelvic pain. However, this pain can be tricky to identify. Doctors may not evaluate teenagers with bad cramps and painful periods for endometriosis.
In a 2020 review, researchers analyzed studies evaluating over 1,000 teenagers with pelvic pain. Doctors diagnosed endometriosis in 64% of the participants.
The authors concluded that there was a high prevalence of endometriosis in teenagers with pelvic pain. They also noted the importance of identifying symptoms early.
Because endometriosis is a condition that progresses over time, treating it early can prevent it from getting worse. According to a 2015 study,
Any person with a uterus can have endometriosis.
If a teenager has symptoms of endometriosis, they may want to speak to a parent about consulting a doctor. Additionally, if a parent or caregiver notices their child is experiencing frequent painful periods and heavy menstrual bleeding, they may want to contact a doctor.
A doctor will ask the teenager to explain their symptoms, how frequently they happen, and how the pain feels.
It may be hard to remember all this information, so it can be useful for people to use a notebook or tracking app to track their periods. They can record when they had their period, how heavy their flow was, what their pain felt like, and other symptoms such as painful urination and fatigue.
After discussing a person’s symptoms, a doctor may follow up with exams and tests. They may perform one or multiple of the following
- Pelvic exam: During a pelvic exam, a doctor feels for cysts or scars behind the uterus. However, they may have difficulty feeling smaller areas of affected tissue.
- Imaging test: A doctor can use ultrasound imaging to check the reproductive organs and look for ovarian cysts. Alternatively, they may recommend an MRI scan to take more detailed pictures of the abdomen.
- Medications: If a doctor sees no signs of ovarian cysts during the imaging studies, they may prescribe hormonal birth control to reduce pelvic pain and regulate periods. They may also recommend gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, which block an individual’s menstrual cycle, relieving pain. If a person’s pain improves with these hormone medications, it indicates that they likely have endometriosis.
- Laparoscopy: This type of surgery is the only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis. It involves inserting a lighted scope through a small incision in the abdomen or pelvis. A doctor can see the growths in more detail and take a sample to analyze and confirm the diganosis.
Although there is no cure for endometriosis, a
A doctor may recommend hormonal birth control as the first line of treatment, to make a person’s periods lighter, shorter, and less painful.
Another option is an intrauterine device (IUD). The hormonal IUD prevents pregnancy for up to seven years, but it may not reduce endometriosis symptoms for the entire duration.
A person can use over-the-counter medications to help ease the pain of endometriosis.
However, these are not always effective in relieving severe pelvic pain. A doctor may prescribe stronger pain relief medications that can help manage a person’s symptoms.
If an individual has severe endometriosis symptoms and other treatment options provide no relief, a doctor may recommend laparoscopy. This is a minimally invasive surgery where a surgeon inserts a scope through a small incision in the individual’s belly.
During the procedure, the surgeon locates and removes patches of endometriosis.
Afterward, an individual may continue with hormonal treatment, which can slow the growth of new patches.
Although there is
Receiving an endometriosis diagnosis as a teenager can be frustrating and scary, and it can affect both the teen and their parent or caregiver. However, it is important to remember that it is beneficial to catch endometriosis early because this is a progressive condition.
For some people, the chronic pain of endometriosis impacts their daily lives. It can lead to feelings of stress, anger, frustration, and depression. Endometriosis organizations can provide emotional support and tips for managing the condition.
People can contact the World Endometriosis Research Foundation and the Endometriosis Association for information on living with endometriosis, online communities, prescription savings, and crisis hotlines.
Endometriosis is a common condition that causes chronic pelvic pain. Although doctors often diagnose it later in a person’s life, many people with endometriosis have symptoms when they are teenagers.
It is important to be aware of the symptoms and contact a doctor if a teen thinks they may have endometriosis. Receiving an early diagnosis can help them manage the condition and reduce their pain.