To review the etiologies, diagnosis, and treatment options of adolescent endometriosis.
Review of publications relating to adolescent endometriosis.
Endometriosis occurs in adolescents as young as 8 years of age; furthermore, there have been documented cases of endometriosis occurring prior to menarche. Adolescents presenting with pelvic pain are treated with cyclic combination oral contraceptive pills and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents. If the pain does not respond to these therapies, then in adolescents as in adults, an operative laparoscopy is recommended for the diagnosis and surgical management of endometriosis. The operating gynecologist should be familiar with the appearance of the complete spectrum of various morphologies of endometriosis, as adolescents tend to have clear, red, white, and/or yellow-brown lesions more frequently than black or blue lesions. Subtle clear lesions of endometriosis may be better visualized by filling the pelvis with irrigation fluid so that the clear lesions can be appreciated in a three-dimensional appearance. Young women who are found to have endometriosis by laparoscopy may present with acyclic, cyclic, and constant pelvic pain. Adolescents with pelvic pain not responding to conventional medical therapy have approximately a 70% prevalence of endometriosis. It is known that endometriosis is a progressive disease and since there is no cure, adolescents with endometriosis require long-term medical management until the time in their lives when they have completed childbearing. Psychosocial support is extremely important for this population of young women with endometriosis.
Endometriosis occurs in adolescents, and presenting symptoms may vary from those seen in adult women with the disease. All health care providers must be aware of the existence of adolescent endometriosis. They should also be aware of the presenting symptoms so that the adolescent can be appropriately referred to a gynecologist comfortable with medical and surgical treatment options in this patient population. If laparoscopy is to be undertaken, the gynecologist must be prepared not only to diagnose but to surgically manage endometriosis. In addition, the subtle laparoscopic findings of endometriosis in adolescents must be recognized for an appropriate diagnosis. Long-term medical therapy will hopefully decrease pain and the progression of the disease, thus decreasing the risk of advanced-stage disease and infertility.