Let’s face it, people hate talking about topics like this. The moment the word uterus or womb is brought up, people tend to run for the hills.
This is the kind of topic, though, that needs to be addressed more often for people to actually know what’s going on with their bodies. The fact is that more women battle with this condition than you know.
Statistics show that one in ten women battle with endometriosis. This means around 176 million women around the world have the condition, yet, many do not know that they do.
We took an in-depth, very frank look at endometriosis. We will talk about what symptoms you would have, what you can expect when you see a doctor, how it can be treated and managed and, how you can live your life around the condition.
Why Are People Not Talking About it and Getting Diagnosed?
Some women are too ashamed or nervous to talk about or seek help for the condition, for example. Let’s face it, problems with your reproductive system are petrifying, if you want children, facing the possibility of being told that you can’t, is crippling.
The second reason why so many ladies go undiagnosed is due to the fact that there is a lot of misinformation. From the time you start your first menstrual cycle, you are told that cramps and pain are normal, and everyone goes through it.
But the fact is, endometriosis is on a totally different level of pain. It can be incredibly disruptive to your life and, in some cases, can actually leave you bed-ridden in the days leading up to your period. If you are going through this, go and have a chat with your doctor! You can also check out this great article from Medicinal Technologies on Endometriosis Guide for women.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms in more detail, though.
How Can You Tell That You Have Endometriosis?
As we have just mentioned, there is quite a lot of pain involved, which isn’t fun.
Some women describe it as painful, stabbing pain while others label it as a dull ache that won’t go away.
It usually starts a few days before the period starts and only really eases halfway through it or closer to the end.
The pain can center in areas around the top of the hips, throughout the belly, sometimes up to the diaphragm and even down the legs. The pain is usually described as consistent and uninterrupted.
You may also feel pain during bowel movements or while urinating, and will most likely feel a lot of discomfort or even severe pain during sex.
Some ladies say that they feel exhausted and lethargic, but it usually does ease once the menstrual cycle has started or completed.
What Causes Endometriosis?
Now we know what to look out for, but why are you feeling like this?
Essentially, the tissue that lines your uterus, and that sheds each month during your period can be found outside of the uterus.
It is mostly found on the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the outer lining of the uterus, and even the bowels. However, it can also be found on the cervix, vagina, and bladder in less common cases.
Even more rarely, it can spread even further, and there have been cases of it drifting up to the diaphragm, liver, bladder, and even the brain. But this is incredibly uncommon. Don’t panic!
Experts are unsure of what actually causes it. It is thought to be a hereditary condition, so if your mom suffers from it, you are most likely to inherit it, too.
What Are the Risk Factors with Endometriosis?
With these conditions, we are always worried about the long term problems it can create. Will it eventually result in cancer? Can you still have children? Will it last your whole life?
Although it will most likely last for all of your child-bearing years, you will most likely find some periods of relief during this time. Pregnancy usually diminishes the symptoms completely, and certain birth control solutions will ease the pain.
It is a benign condition; however, in saying this, it can increase the risk of both infertility and cancer in women.
Although experts are not totally clear on why, the rogue tissue can cause scar tissue and cysts, which is usually a large cause of the pain, but it is also thought to impact the fertility of the women.
The risk of cancer has been said to increase if you are both infertile and have endometriosis. Don’t panic. The use of combination oral contraceptive pills has shown to reduce the risk significantly, so just make sure you see a doctor regularly and work together on the condition.
What Will the Doctor Do to Diagnose it?
If you suspect that you have it, go and see a doctor and talk through your symptoms and what you are experiencing. Obstetrician-gynecologists are usually the specialists that you can go to and will want to do an examination to ascertain whether you have it.
They will want to do a rectovaginal exam, which is one finger in the vagina and one finger in the rectum so that they can feel the nodules behind the uterus and along the ligaments that attach to the pelvic wall.
It sounds awful, but it will only cause slight discomfort. They can also try ultrasounds to see if there is anything out of place.
But the most reliable way of accurately diagnosing it is a laparoscopy. This is a surgical procedure that you will have to do under general or local anesthesia, and an instrument is inserted for an internal view. Some tissue might be taken for testing. Although this is incredibly intrusive, it will rule out cancer and other malignancies.
How Can It Be Treated?
Unfortunately, you cannot cure endometriosis, but you can treat the symptoms and manage the pain.
There are several medications and drugs that the doctor will recommend including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs);
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs (GnRH analogs);
- Birth control pills (oral contraceptives);
- Aromatase inhibitors;
- Danazol (Danocrine).
Spend some time with your doctor exploring all of these options, what impacts they will have, and what they will do to ease the symptoms.
If none of these are working and the condition is persistent and chronic. The doctor might recommend surgery. This is usually conservative, where the uterus and tissue are preserved, or it can be definitive, where you will undergo a hysterectomy.
As you can see, this condition can have a significant impact on your life. It is incredibly important to see a doctor regularly and monitor it. You will be able to reduce your risk of cancer, infertility, and excessive pain throughout your life with the right support and treatment.
Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.