One of my patients, Lauren*, was 13 years old when she first began experiencing debilitating period pain. Her friends were going through the same changes brought on by puberty, but their pain did not appear to be as severe. Lauren could barely get out of bed. When she did, there was no guarantee that she would be able to walk to the next room.
Her school nurse told her that eating breakfast would make everything better.
Her doctor suggested that she “should play more.”
At least one other physician insisted that the pain was all in her mind.
As years went by and the symptoms worsened, several more doctors misdiagnosed her with various diseases.
From the age of 18 until she was about 30, the pain continued to grip her life. From the moment Lauren awoke each morning, the simplest tasks—getting out of bed, showering, getting into her car—were insufferably difficult. Walking through her office was a genuine test of agility and endurance. When she returned home each evening, she could barely function, let alone be intimate with her husband. Severe headaches kicked in. It was too much to tolerate.
A classic case of endometriosis
What Lauren had all of those years was a classic case of endometriosis. The disease affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide. It causes pelvic pain in reproductive-age women and adolescent girls. It is associated with heavy menstrual periods, clotted flow, gastrointestinal symptoms, fertility problems, and a significant loss of quality of life.
The disease, I believe, can be genetic. If your mother had it, you are more likely to have it, which would mean the chances of your children having it would be also higher.
*Lauren’s story is featured in The Doctor Will See You Now; Recognizing and Treating Endometriosis, Dr. Tamer Seckin (Turner Publishing, 2016)
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