Painful periods could indicate endometriosis
Mimicking the lining of the uterus, it grows and flakes off as if it were in the uterus during a normal menstrual cycle, sometimes even bleeding. This can cause swelling, irritation and pain.
Arkansas Children’s has the only two fellowship-trained pediatric and adolescent gynecologists in the state: Dr. Laura Hollenbach, medical director of the AC Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Clinic and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics at the ‘UAMS, and Dr. Kathryn Stambough, AC Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UAMS.
They see patients from newborns to 22 years old for a variety of conditions, including endometriosis.
According World Health Organization (WHO) 2020 statistics, approximately 10 percent or 190 million girls and women who have had their first period worldwide are affected by endometriosis. Some women may suffer from endometriosis and mild symptoms, without ever needing treatment other than over-the-counter medications.
For people with symptoms, the disease can lead to complications, including chronic pelvic pain, abnormally painful periods, infertility, pain during intercourse, urination and bowel movements, bloating and nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression, according to the WHO.
Girls may experience symptoms of endometriosis when they have their first period in a woman who is going through menopause. Some may have mild endometriosis, with fewer implants but severe symptoms, while others may have multiple implants but mild symptoms. Since pelvic pain or period pain is most common with endometriosis, many don’t go to the doctor, thinking their pain is normal.
Surgery is the only way to confirm that a patient has endometriosis. So doctors look at a patient’s history and symptoms to see if endometriosis is possible.
ACH gynecologists listen to how young patients describe their symptoms to determine if endometriosis could be the cause.
Red flags include:
- Pelvic pain or pain with periods that interferes with activities, such as going to school, playing sports, or hanging out with friends
- Over-the-counter medications and heating pads not providing relief
- Pain while peeing
- Irregular period patterns
- family history
Pelvic exams, which aren’t always necessary, can reveal suspicious issues, including tenderness in certain areas. Ultrasound looking at the pelvis can also rule out other conditions.
Endometriosis can be treated with medication, surgery, and/or physical therapy. Prescribed drugs target prostaglandins, which trigger muscles to contract and push the lining of the uterus, causing cramping for a period. Doctors may also prescribe hormone treatments and other medications that relieve pain. ACH physiotherapists offer pelvic floor therapy, which includes exercise techniques for the muscles of the pelvis or hip that can help patients with endometriosis.
Surgery is usually the last resort. He removes implants that grow outside the uterus, and a patient is then supported with medication. As it is a persistent disease, it sometimes requires several surgeries if medication does not control it.
Make an appointment in person or via telehealth with the ACH Gynecology Clinic in Little Rock or Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale to learn more.