POSTED: 2:35 pm EST December 11, 2006
UPDATED: 2:50 pm EST December 11, 2006
BALTIMORE -- More than just cramps could be causing menstrual pains. A condition called endometriosis could be the root of the problem, and doctors said that if left untreated, it could lead to infertility.
Mercy Medical Center Dr. Christine Vergara said about half of adolescents with chronic pelvic pain have endometriosis.
"The patients that have cramping so bad are missing school or missing sports activities. They're not able to participate in their normal sports activities (and they're having) pain that's not relieved by simple pain medications -- over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen. Those are the patients that you become a lot more worried that they have endometriosis," Vergara said.
According to doctors, endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the endometrial lining of the uterus grows in other parts of the pelvic cavity, including the outside of the uterus, the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
During a woman's monthly cycle, the tissue sheds and can cause pain and other problems.
"With endometriosis in particular, it can be progressive. So, if you can identify it and treat it (when you are) younger, then you're much less likely to have a lot of problems with huge cysts, with infertility, with adhesions, and problems that are just more difficult to deal with (as you get older)," Vergara said.
Doctors said daughters of women with the disease are more likely to get endometriosis.