Endometriosis is a health condition in which the uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, rather than solely within it. This can result in abnormally heavy periods as well as pain that exceeds that of normal menstrual cramping that women are used to experiencing. It is a fairly common health problem, impacting more than 6 million women in the US alone.
While there is not an actual cure for this condition, there are several ways to treat the symptoms and keep the pain at bay. Because some of its symptoms are often overlooked or attributed to another cause, it’s important to understand the condition and how it can impact your health.
One of the reasons that there is still not a cure for endometriosis is that a definite cause has not yet been identified.
What are some of the risk factors?
- Periods started at an early age (before age 11)
- Periods are short or random, or last more than 7 days, and are heavy
- Abnormal vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes
- Having a mother, sister, or daughter with endometriosis
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of endometriosis are infertility and pain during your period. Although often worse during your period, pain and other symptoms can also occur throughout the month, including:
- Extreme lower abdominal pain or bloating
- Lower back pain
- Pain with bowel movements or during urination
- Nausea, vomiting, or feeling light-headed
- Heavy vaginal bleeding during your period or spotting in between periods
- Pain during sex
- Chronic fatigue
How is it treated?
Endometriosis can be treated but not cured.
Medications that contain hormones, such as birth control pills, injections, or nasal spray can help lessen pain and bleeding. However, the symptoms can come back if the medicine is stopped. Providers may also prescribe pain medication.
Surgical treatment to remove small sections of scar tissue can be done using laparoscopy. A laparotomy is a more invasive procedure where a surgeon makes a cut into the abdomen to explore or remove scar tissue. Other surgical treatments include cutting nerves to help with pain.
What to do
If you suspect endometriosis, make sure to reach out to a doctor or gynecologist, a doctor who focuses on female reproductive organs. They will help review your medical history, discuss symptoms, as well as help with diagnosis and potential treatment.