More than 6.5M people in the United States suffer from endometriosis and yet doctors still continue to dismiss patients’ symptoms.
In fact, many people have to go to multiple doctors before they can get someone to take them seriously and help them get treatment.
Unfortunately, endometriosis can be so debilitating that it can affect people’s daily lives and even careers.
If you think you may have endometriosis, it might be up to you to educate yourself and learn how to be a self-advocate at the doctor’s office. To learn more about the condition, continue reading below.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an extremely common condition in which endometrial-like tissue grows outside the uterus, often on other parts of the reproductive system such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the outer surface of the uterus. It can also occur in the intestines, rectum, bladder, vagina, and cervix, although this is less common.
When the afflicted person has their menstrual cycle, the excess tissue responds just like it would if it were in the uterus, resulting in inflammation, swelling, and scaring. If the misplaced tissue is in or around an ovary, it can often cause a blood blister inside a fibrous cyst. All of this can cause intense pain during menstruation.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
Endometriosis affects everyone slightly differently but the most common symptoms include:
• Excessive and unbearable menstrual cramps
• Pain during vaginal intercourse
• Pain urinating while menstruating
• Pain pooping while menstruating
• Diarrhea, Constipation, and/or Nausea
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
The most definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is through a laparoscopy (a minor surgical procedure) and then biopsies any suspicious tissue. The doctor will then be able to look at the tissue under the microscope to make the final diagnosis.
Other useful diagnostic tools include an ultrasound, a CT scan, and an MRI scan.
What Are the Medical Treatment Options?
Treatment will depend heavily on how much your endometriosis has progressed. If your endometriosis is still considered minimal or mild, your doctor may simply recommend OTC pain medications.
Those with more moderate cases might want to explore hormone therapy, which you can get from oral contraceptives as well as other prescriptions, in order to reduce or even prevent menstruation.
Those with more serious and severe cases might want to consider a surgical option, of which there are three:
• Laparoscopy: The same procedure used to diagnose your endometriosis can also be used to remove some of the endometrial growths in the pelvic area
• Laparotomy: A more invasive procedure in which the surgeon removes as much of the growth as possible without harming the rest of your reproductive organs.
• Hysterectomy: A surgery in which the entire uterus is removed and sometimes the ovaries as well
What Are the Home Treatment Options?
OTC Pain Medications like Ibuprofen.
• A heating pad. This is a very useful home remedy for endometriosis. A heating pad or a hot water bottle can help to soothe and loosen the muscles in areas that cramp up.
• A TENS machine. A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit emits vibrations that will relax muscles and reduce pain.
• Self-care. One of the most important things we can all benefit from when we experience these types of pains is to take the time to unwind and listen to our body and fit our endometriosis needs into our schedule so we feel more in control of the symptoms.
Are Endometriosis and Fertility Linked?
Infertility is not always associated with the condition, but it can be a symptom. Someone can have endometriosis and not have infertility problems. In many cases, people may not know that they will have fertility problems until they try to conceive.
Infertility is defined as being unable to get pregnant within 6 months to 12 months, depending on the age of the person. If someone is on medication for endometriosis it is highly unlikely they will get pregnant because their ovulation is suppressed. If someone wants to get pregnant they may want to look at alternative approaches, such as a laparoscopy.