We ask every patient if their period pain was worse than their peers in the teen years. The vast majority say they don’t know because it was not discussed. Because so many times, endometriosis is hereditary, the mothers of younger patients with severe periods had the same themselves therefore they feel it is normal. The mothers and grandmothers of today’s reproductive age women rarely had endometriosis diagnosed and therefore don’t know this is not a normal situation. So many patients with endometriosis have heavy prolonged periods.
In today’s environment, the vast majority of women are subjected to extreme physiologic stress from aerobic exercise, underweight, eating disorders, etc, all of which result in low estrogen levels. Low estrogen causes cycles to be prolonged and often can be heavier due to more days of bleeding.
Teenagers with significant cycle pain should be evaluated and treated early for endometriosis. This condition can be cured and the period pain can be normalized. Medications may relieve symptoms but do not treat the disease that goes on to cause infertility, hormone problems, and early menopause.
At least 15% of teenagers have this disease and results of histories taken from these patients tell us that they lose decades of their lives in a less than normal functional state. Most patients have severe symptoms 5-7 days each month decreasing their functional lives by 25%!! This is a huge problem and deserves more attention in the lay press.
Michael D. Fox, MD
Jacksonville Center Reproductive Medicine
Advanced Reproductive Specialists