Experiencing horrible cramps is one thing. Okay, it’s a horrible one thing. But when that pain continues beyond that time of the month and, in many cases, prevents you from having children? Then it’s a medical issue that can be both frustrating and debilitating.
That’s endometriosis — a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrial stroma and glands, which should only be located inside the uterus) is found elsewhere in the body including on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic side-wall or even on the colon or bladder. It can also cause scar tissue and adhesions that can distort a woman’s internal anatomy. And, because of this intense internal scarring, it is estimated that 30-40 percent of women with endometriosis may not be able to have children
How many women are dealing with this? It’s not a small number. About 10 percent of all women – 176 million – around the world are diagnosed with endometriosis and many others are undiagnosed and untreated. The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain. While it’s usually associated with the menstrual cycle, a woman with endometriosis may also experience pain in addition her cycle.
While there is no cure, there are ways to manage the disease that can minimize the symptoms and significantly improve quality of life. Many women find relief through hormonal treatment because estrogen seems to ignite endometriosis. A number of drugs are available that shrink the lining of the uterus, reducing endometriotic lesions. In more severe cases, women may choose laparoscopic surgery. It remains the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis, and in most cases the condition can be diagnosed and treated in the same procedure.
But most importantly, do your research (asking medical professionals and not just “Dr. Google”) and find a good doctor who is up to date on the disease. The treatment options available have been proven to be highly effective, so make sure your doctor is knowledgable about your condition and endometriosis.
As a women, an endometriosis diagnosis can be scary. But remember you are not alone. Search your area for a support group which some women have found to be extremely helpful. These groups range from in person meetings to even virtual support online.
For more information, contact your local medical professional, including Hancock Women + Children to schedule an appointment and get your questions about endometriosis answered.