Adolescent endometriosis is becoming more common, but it’s often misdiagnosed or simply dismissed as severe period pain.
Four years ago, at the age of 11, Demi Puttergill started experiencing severe menstrual cramps and aches. After numerous visits to doctors, pediatricians and specialists, she was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in 2010. But despite treatment and diet changes, the pain kept getting worse.
In 2012 the pain was so unbearable that the Port Elizabeth teen was rushed to see a surgeon. He thought it was her appendix, but the next day he discharged her saying ‘some kids just get stomachache’. A second opinion resulted in her appendix being removed. The surgeon noticed cysts on her fallopian tubes and referred her to Dr Gary Solomon, a gynaecologist.
The cysts were removed, her fallopian tubes flushed and she was diagnosed with endometriosis. ‘Finally’, Demi says, ‘my prayers were answered.’ But her struggle was far from over.
She was also treated for anxiety and depression, and her psychologist suggested home schooling until she was stronger and more confident. ‘Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know what endometriosis was or how to explain the discomfort I was experiencing. The pain is indescribable. It has affected who I am, my attitude and my abilities,’ she explains.
Demi is currently on medication recently introduced in South Africa, and it has changed her life. ‘Besides the major pain relief, it’s also helped me to partake in more events, be more sociable, attend school and play sport,’ she says
Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis may include:
- Painful periods.
- Pain during bowel movement or urination.
- Excessive bleeding (even between periods).
- Other symptoms. (You may also experience fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.)
Help raise awareness
Last year Demi organised an Endometriosis Awareness Fun Run, linking up with World Endometriosis Month in March. The money raised from the entries was donated to the Healing & Addressing Pelvic Pain Initiative (HAPPI).
For more information about HAPPI, contact Madge Blignaut at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year the fun run will take place on Sunday 9 March at the Crossways Farm Village outside Port Elizabeth.
For more information contact Demi on 042 286 0764 or her mother, Nicky, on 082 576 1382 or e-mail email@example.com.
Demi and her gynaecologist, Dr Gary Solomon