A student aged just 22 is having the menopause induced because of severe period problems that leave her bedridden and in agony every month.
Katy Johnston, who suffers from the most serious form of the womb condition endometriosis, has begun a series of injections to trigger a ‘medical menopause’.
Doctors warned her she would have hot flushes, anxiety, sleepless nights and other symptoms of the ‘change’ usually experienced in middle-age.
But Johnston hopes that treatment with the hormone-blocking drug Decapeptyl will give her reproductive system a much-needed break and eventually she will be able to start a family.
She said the drug halted ovulation to ‘give my fallopian tubes a rest – they are designed to give my reproductive bits a chance to calm down.’
‘They have given me menopause-like symptoms. Each month it’s like having the worst PMS of all time. I get dizziness, constant hot sweats and my periods haven’t stopped entirely.
‘It’s dreadful, but in my opinion better than being stuck in the house, unable to move or go out. I’ll take a hot flush over agonising cramps any day of the week.’
Johnston’s endometriosis is so bad that her uterus has fused to her bowel. She had four ovarian cysts and her right fallopian tube is badly swollen. One doctor said it was the worst case he had ever seen in a woman so young.
It was after keyhole surgery to drain the cysts that specialists suggested she start injecting a drug to stop her ovulating.
She had suffered years of painful periods which left her bedridden for days with nausea or going to A&E to get strong painkillers.
Doctors had struggled to diagnose her problem and one stage prescribed just Ibuprofen. But after suddenly losing two stone she was referred to a gynaecologist last November.
After surgery at Glasgow Royal Infirmary she was diagnosed with stage-four endometriosis, the most severe form. It causes heavy periods, stomach cramps and, in the worst cases, infertility.
Johnston, a journalist from Aberdeen who has had to leave a post-graduate course because of her illness, added: ‘I’ve always put my excruciating cramps down to a natural consequence of being a woman – something every girl goes through. It took me years to figure out it was way more than that.
‘From the age of 16 my pain each month became unbearable and forced me to miss time all the way through school and university.
‘During my final year of uni I’d pass out, have to stay home for days in agonising pain, vomiting six or seven times a day.’
She will need more surgery to cut away the tissue fusing her organs, but not until her fallopian tube is less swollen.
She hopes the menopause triggered by her injections will be temporary. ‘I do eventually want to start a family,’ she said. ‘The injections have pressed pause on my ovaries. I’m hoping they can turn back on. As someone who is only 22, I didn’t want to be faced with potential infertility.’
Johnston has set up a social media campaign, Endo Silence Scotland, to encourage other sufferers to talk more openly.
Endometriosis is caused when cells that line the womb also grow outside it.
The symptoms include lower abdominal pain, pain during sex or urination, sickness, nausea, diarrhoea, depression, heavy periods and difficulty conceiving.
It takes an average of 7.5 years for a women to get a diagnosis of endometriosis.
Treatments include painkillers, contraceptive pills, hormonal injections, surgery and, in extreme circumstances, hysterectomy.
It is one of the most common gynaecological conditions in the UK, affecting one in 10 women of child-bearing age. Around 1.5 million UK women are currently suffering from endometriosis.