Do you ever have menstrual cramp-like pain that can be so unbearable that you can’t go about your normal daily activities? Is it sometimes painful during sex? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you might be one of the millions of women who have endometriosis. Endometriosis happens when the lining of your uterus grows outside of the uterus and attaches to other parts/organs of your body, usually in the abdomen or pelvis. It is estimated to affect about 1 in 10 reproductive-aged women. If it is not spotted early on and treated, endometriosis can cause infertility. Nearly 20-40% of women with infertility will have endometriosis. Below are the symptoms and signs so you can seek the necessary medical attention.
The Warning Signs
The causes of endometriosis are unknown, and many women who have it exhibit no symptoms. Those who do experience symptoms may include:
- Killer cramps- While most menstrual cramps are painful or annoying, endometriosis cramping is like cramps on steroids. The cramps are so strong that they can stop you from accomplishing simple tasks.
- Longer and heavier periods
- Worsened allergies
- Painful bowel movements
- Severe migraines
- Painful ovulation
- Pain in lower back
- Painful urination
- Infertility- If your tissue grows outside of the uterus, the scarring makes it hard for the sperm and egg to meet. If the egg does become fertilized, then the disease will stop the egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus.
- Pain During Sex- Some women describe sharp or stabbing pain while having sex, or after sex. This is a possible sign of endometriosis. Sex should feel good, not painful. This should be a clear sign that something is not right.
Most of the time, the pain is worse right before or during your period. The pain improves after, but can occur when you are ovulating.
How Do I Get Diagnosed?
If you fear you are one of the many women who have endometriosis, go to your OB-GYN immediately and get checked. Your gynecologist can feel nodules during a rectovaginal exam. This is done when they put one finger in the vagina, and one in the rectum. While these exams or an ultrasound can show possible signs of endometriosis, the only sure way to know is from a biopsy. The doctor performs a laparoscopy, in which they go in through the belly button and take a sample of the endometriosis lesion. Lesions in the stomach will look like cigarette burns, or they
can appear on an ovary as a cyst.
Is It Treatable?
To treat endometriosis, the doctor can prescribe medications. If this doesn’t work or it is severe, then surgery is recommended.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed to relieve pain. Doctors will prescribe Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs to relieve pain and reduce the size of the nodules. The GnRH reduces estrogen production, causing your menstrual cycle to stop, mimicking menopause. Birth control is another recommended pill , and if it does not help, the doctor will prescribe progestins.
- Surgery is the next step if the medications do not work. The doctor simply burns the endometriosis lesions, getting rid of any scar tissue. This will hopefully alleviate any pain associated with endometriosis, and allow the ovaries and fallopian tubes to return to normal. If the ovarian tissue and uterus can’t be preserved, then the doctor will recommend a hysterectomy in which the uterus is removed.
Most cases of endometriosis are in women from the ages of 25-35 years old. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent endometriosis. This makes it especially important to visit your OB-GYN regularly, and voice any concerns or pain you are experiencing.