Did you know the lining of the uterus (womb) is called the “endometrium” and that this tissue can grow on other parts of the body?
Endometriosis is an inflammatory disease involving the growth of endometrial (uterine) tissue outside the uterus. It’s more than just ‘painful periods’ or ‘killer cramps’ and is often incorrectly referred to as a ‘condition of menstruation’ or menstrual cycle irregularity.
What are the symptoms?
Contrary to popular belief, endometriosis can cause intense pain throughout the month – not just when a person is on their period. The pain and inflammation are not contained solely in the uterus and impact the digestive system, urinary tract, and other organs or bodily systems where this tissue begins to grow.
Common symptoms of endometriosis include bowel pain, constipation/diarrhea, intense bloating, bladder pain, pelvic pain, period pain, reoccurring urinary tract infections (UTIs), and painful sex. To help make sure you receive the correct diagnosis, it’s always a good idea to record and monitor your symptoms, regardless of what you may think you have.
Also – remember to advocate for yourself! No one knows your body better than you do.
How is it diagnosed?
Endometriosis shares many common symptoms with other illnesses making it hard to diagnose. For example, one of the largest misdiagnoses of endometriosis is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Other misdiagnoses include dysmenorrhea (excruciating menstrual cramps), fibroids (non-cancerous tumors of the uterus), ovarian cysts (non-cancerous growths of the ovaries), and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Testing for endometriosis includes a pelvic exam (a clinician feels the pelvis), an ultrasound (using sound to create an image), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and laparoscopy (surgery to view inside the body).
What treatments are available?
Typically, treatment for endometriosis involves surgery or medication depending on how severe the condition is and whether one would like to become pregnant. If the symptoms are mild, an over-the-counter pain reliever like Aleve or Motrin may be recommended.
For moderate pain related to endometriosis, hormone therapy may be an effective treatment. The most common hormonal treatments for endometriosis are contraceptives or hormonal birth control methods, including the pill, patch, and vaginal rings.
Progestin-only hormone therapy is another possible option in the treatment of endometriosis and includes intrauterine devices (IUDs) like Mirena or Skyla, the implant (Nexplanon), the shot (Depo-Provera), and the progestin pill. Other hormonal medications recommended include those that reduce the amount of estrogen in the body. However, it’s important to note that hormonal treatments are not permanent. Meaning that once a person stops taking the medication, symptoms will return.
For more severe cases of endometriosis, surgery may be recommended. Conservative surgery is typically performed on those who want to have children because it removes the endometrial growth while protecting the ovaries and uterus. This surgery can also benefit those who experience severe pain from the condition. However, there is a chance for the pain and growth to return even after having surgery, especially if all the tissue was not carefully removed. Lastly, the most extreme surgical option is to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) and ovaries (oophorectomy) completely, which causes menopause (end of menstruation).
Finding a clinician that will listen to your concerns can be difficult, especially when it comes to largely misdiagnosed conditions, but we’ve made it easy! Take control of your health by finding a trusted healthcare provider near you.