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Raising awareness of endometriosis in adolescent girls

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Often undiagnosed among adolescents Often undiagnosed among adolescents, endometriosis can have long-lasting effects

Endometriosis is a disorder typically diagnosed in women over 20. However it can begin for many during adolescence.1 This article aims to introduce the condition in adolescent girls; their symptoms, key issues and support needs. Nurses working in primary care settings are often amongst the first to encounter adolescents with symptom complaints, and they therefore play a crucial role in initiating diagnostic referral and providing education and support.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which endometrial-like tissue is found outside of the uterine cavity, often on the reproductive organs, bowel and bladder. These tissue deposits respond to monthly hormone cycles, inducing a local inflammatory response, which leads to scarring and adhesion formation.2 Endometriosis is often described as enigmatic, because the exact cause is unknown, therefore definitive treatment is not always possible, and there is a high rate of reoccurrence.3

Endometriosis affects approximately 10% of women of reproductive age,4 and although the exact prevalence in adolescents is unclear, the majority of women with endometriosis report that their symptoms began during adolescence.1 The difficulty in determining the true prevalence amongst adolescents is partly due to their delays in obtaining a diagnosis. This often takes many years, and so many adolescents would be classed as an ‘adult’ by the time of diagnosis.1

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