Endometriosis is an often painful disorder where the endometrium, the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus and on to other areas where it doesn’t belong. That endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would, thickening, breaking down and bleeding with each menstrual cycle.
The problem with that is that displaced tissue has no way to exit the body and becomes trapped. That causes surrounding tissue to become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue or even causing organs to stick together. It’s a condition with a lot of misconception surrounding it, so here are 20 things that every woman should know about endometriosis.
In most cases of endometriosis, the excess endometrial tissue is usually found in the pelvic cavity. But while it’s unusual for that tissue to spread beyond the pelvic region, it’s not an impossibility.
Endometriosis affects every woman differently, depending on a number of different factors including where in the body the excess endometrial tissue has grown. That means different treatments are effective for different patients. Discuss your full range of symptoms and treatment options with your doctor and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
Because each case is different, a hysterectomy is not a definitive cure for each case of endometriosis and in some cases, may not help at all. If your doctor says otherwise, definitely get a second opinion.
Endometriosis doesn’t necessarily mean you are infertile. While estimated that between 30 and 40 percent of women affected may not be able to have children, many women with endometriosis can become pregnant naturally or with reproductive aid.
Not A Cure…
Pregnancy does not cure endometriosis. It’s possible that you may have temporary relief from the symptoms of the condition during your pregnancy, but having a child does nothing at all in terms of a permanent solution.
… But Not A Cause, Either
On the other hand, delaying pregnancy is not a cause of endometriosis, contrary to what some people believe. It’s not something that happens to you because you decided not to have a child in your early twenties.
Aside from painful periods and potential infertility, other symptoms of endometriosis can include painful ovulation, pain during or after sex, abnormal bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, and fatigue.
Medical science has yet to determine exactly what causes endometriosis but current research suggests it likely has a genetic component. That’s because having a mother or sister who has endometriosis significantly increases the odds that you’ll have it too.
While there are treatments for endometriosis, there is no cure, strictly speaking. That’s an especially unfortunate fact because of how common it is. It affects approximately 10 percent of all reproductive-aged women — about 176 million worldwide.
Because so many people are affected, endometriosis has a significant financial cost to the world. It’s estimated to cost around $11,000 per affected woman each year. Two thirds of that cost is because of lost work productivity with the rest being actual healthcare costs.
While endometriosis is not an autoimmune disease, it can affect the immune system. Hyperthyroidism, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis are all autoimmune conditions that have been linked to higher occurrence rates in women with endometriosis, though scientists don’t yet understand the connection.
The severity of endometriosis, meaning the amount of tissue that grows outside of the uterus, doesn’t necessarily correlate with the amount of pain or other symptoms a woman may experience.
The three main options available for the treatment of endometriosis are surgery, hormones, and pain management. Your doctor may recommend one or more of those options based on your particular case.
If you do choose surgery as treatment, laparoscopic excision is generally considered the best option. Of course, this will vary person to person and no course of treatment should be chosen without the recommendation of a professional.
If you have endometriosis and would like to have children one day, make sure to discuss fertility with your doctor before taking action. In some cases, surgery can help women with endometriosis become pregnant naturally, but in others, especially where the ovaries are affected, surgery might make it harder to become pregnant.
Endometriosis needs estrogen to grow. The hormonal treatment of endometriosis is aimed at reducing or stopping the production of estrogen, which can be accomplished through the use of contraceptive pills, progestins, IUDs, and other methods.
If you suffer from endometriosis, be wary of treating the pain with over-the-counter or prescription analgesics. Taking such medications too often can actually result in worse pain in the long run. Instead, find a pain management clinic, pain psychologist, or discuss options with your primary doctor.
Exercise Is Good
While chronic pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis can make exercise more difficult, the pain actually gets worse if your lifestyle is too sedentary. Some women find swimming or even an exercise, as simple as going for walks, for example, to be a good way to improve their health.
Find Your Pace
If you do exercise, be careful that what you do isn’t exacerbating your condition. For some women who experience chronic pelvic pain as a result of their endometriosis, overactive pelvic floor muscles could be the cause. A pelvic physiotherapist may be able to help.
Seek Professional Help
Finally, endometriosis is a difficult condition to diagnose. The only surefire way to know if you have it is by getting a laparoscopy performed by a skilled specialist that knows what to look for. It’s a condition not well understood, even by most doctors, so if you suspect you may have it, book an appointment with a specialist as soon as you can.