Age Of First Period Linked To Endometriosis 

March 11, 2010

Positive proof of definitive causes for the painful condition known as endometriosis has been quite elusive. But thanks to Australian researchers, we now have another clue as to why some women develop endometriosis while others do not. A new study shows that there is a link between the age at which a young girl begins to menstruate, the severity of her menstrual pain symptoms, and her risk for developing endometriosis.

Early Signs

Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research looked at data from some 500 women, assessing them for early signs that might have predicted the future development of endometriosis. The condition causes intense pain and often creates fertility issues, too. The scientists decided to compare the characteristics of early menstruation in women with moderate or severe endometriosis to similar data on women who do not have the debilitating condition.

A close analysis of the data showed that those who had their menarche (first menstrual period) after the age of 14 had a much lower risk for the later development of endometriosis. Those women who had at some point reported severe pain from their menstrual periods, and especially during the early years of their adolescence, had a twofold increased risk for developing the condition.

Often Misdiagnosed

Endometriosis is the extra-uterine growth of tissue resembling that which lines the uterus, or the endometrium. No one knows exactly how many women have the condition, since it often eludes diagnosis or is misdiagnosed. Statistics show that it takes nine years from a woman's first complaint of pain to her GP, to a confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis, which can only be diagnosed through surgical means. While there is no cure, the condition can be treated with pain medication, hormone therapy, and surgery.

In the past, researchers had explored the link between the characteristics of the menses and endometriosis. However, according to Dr. Christina Nagle from QIMR, that research had only focused on the most recent characteristics of menstruation in women who suffer from the disease. "Our research is one of the first studies to look at the factors contributing to the development of endometriosis long before symptoms and diagnosis occur."

In previous research performed by Nagle and her team, a link between being obese at the age of 10 and the later development of endometriosis was confirmed. Overweight, ten-year-old girls double their risk for later endometriosis. "Our research aims to better understand the signs and symptoms before the disease develops and to help identify women at higher risk," says Nagle.

 

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