Endometriosis is a medical condition affecting 1 in 10 women that occurs when the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows in other areas of the body. That tissue, much like a period, is connected to a woman’s hormonal cycle, but unlike menstruation, it remains in the body and bleeds, causing cysts, adhesions, heavy periods, lesions, severe cramps and often infertility.
It most commonly affects the reproductive system, but its debilitating effects can also impact the lungs, cervix, bladder, bowel, diaphragm, nerves, and muscles which can cause other severe and sometimes life-threatening medical conditions.
The most common symptom of endometriosis, however, is cramping during menstruation which often worsens over time, with women experiencing pain and cramping just before the start of their period. But as their condition progresses, their pain may start mid-cycle and continue until after their period ends.
Endometriosis may also cause pain during sex, fatigue, painful urination or bowel movements during menstruation, and stomach upset. Infertility and bleeding between periods are also symptoms of endometriosis.
There are several predispositions and risk factors for endometriosis and unfortunately, few can really be prevented or avoided. They include …
… never having given birth
… having a mother with endometriosis
… having cycles that are shorter than 27 days with bleeding that lasts longer than eight days
… being white or Asian
… having a medical condition that makes menstrual flow irregular
… having previous damage to the cells that line the pelvis
And while you can’t prevent endometriosis, you can proactively try to lessen its effects by …
… starting hormonal birth control methods with lower doses of estrogen
… exercising to lower your body fat which can decrease the amount of estrogen circulating through your body
… avoiding alcohol which can increase estrogen levels
… avoiding caffeine which can increase estrogen levels
If none of the above methods help alleviate your symptoms, laparoscopy and laparotomy, common forms of surgery used to treat endometriosis, can be considered. They require going in through the abdominal region to remove the endometrial tissue and can help provide significant – although short-term – pain relief.
Unlike breaking a bone or falling ill from a virus, there are no perfect methods for managing the often debilitating effects of endometriosis. But with a trusting partnership with your medical professionals, some time, patience and research, you can find how to best manage your endometriosis. Additionally, you can seek out local support groups and individuals that are similarly ill and take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call our office at 919-908-0000.