Unrecognized bleeding disorders are more common in adolescents, especially females, than many parents think. Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s new Adolescent Hematology Clinic, located at the Dublin Close To HomeSM Center and the only one of its kind in Ohio, offers both hematology and adolescent reproductive health expertise in a single clinic to diagnose and treat bleeding disorders and the heavy menstrual cycles that often accompany them.
Early diagnosis of bleeding disorders is crucial to help prevent complications later in life after injuries, and especially during childbirth or surgery. Diagnosed bleeding disorders can be controlled with proper treatment, enhancing safety and quality of the patient’s life.
“Of the new patients we see in our clinic, approximately 40 percent of the girls have turned out to have an underlying bleeding disorder,” said Sarah O’Brien, MD, MSc, a physician with Hematology/Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at Nationwide Children’s. “Parents and their daughters appreciate our all-female staff and are often comforted by the fact that an examination does not necessarily include a pelvic exam. Since many of our patients are young adolescents who are not sexually active, this gives them the opportunity to seek care without seeing a gynecologist, something they might not quite feel ready for.”
The Adolescent Hematology Clinic at Nationwide Children’s has an all-female hematology and adolescent medicine team, led by Dr. O’Brien, also an assistant professor with The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Medicine, and Cynthia Holland-Hall, MD, MPH, a physician in Adolescent Health at Nationwide Children’s and an associate professor at OSU College of Medicine. Drs. O’Brien and Holland-Hall and their staff help adolescent girls with excessive menstrual bleeding and can determine if there is a more serious bleeding issue that needs to be treated.
One thing parents can do to make sure their adolescent daughter is healthy is encourage her to be open and honest about her menstrual cycles with her doctor. Menorrhagia – excessively heavy or long periods – can be genetic. Mothers may tell their daughters that having a period for more than seven days is normal because the moms themselves actually suffer or have suffered from the same condition without even realizing it.
The most frequent cause of menorrhagia is an imbalance between the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body, which causes the lining of the uterus to keep building up over time. Because many adolescents have slight hormone imbalances during puberty, menorrhagia isn't uncommon in teens. But in some cases, heavy menstrual bleeding can be one of the first indicators of a more serious bleeding disorder. Other possible indicators of a bleeding disorder include easy bruising or large bruises from minor bumps or injuries; frequent or prolonged nosebleeds; mouth and gum bleeding; excessive bleeding after injury, surgery or at the immunization site; iron deficiency and/or anemia; and family history of easy bruising or bleeding.
The Adolescent Hematology Clinic takes place one day a month and takes calls during normal business hours. For more information, visit www.NationwideChildrens.org or call (614) 722-5867.