What is endometriosis? How can you tell the difference between menstrual cramps and endometriosis symptoms? Learn the essential facts about this common health problem so you can take recognize the symtoms and take preventitive steps.
Endometriosis is a common condition that affects the tissues around your uterus. The condition occurs when this tissue, known as endometrium, begins to grow outside of your uterus. Although up to six million American women – and up to 11% of all women – have endometriosis, it’s not always easy to detect.
Whether you’re planning to get pregnant, struggling with severe pain, or just curious about your reproductive health, it’s important to be able to recognize the following six endometriosis symptoms, treatments and preventative measures.
1. Lowering Your Estrogen Levels Can Lower Your Risk
Endometriosis can’t be prevented, but it’s possible to lower your likelihood of developing the painful condition. Because estrogen promotes growth of endometriosis, lowering your levels of this reproductive hormone may reduce the amount of spread of endometriosis implants in and around the uterus. Birth control pills, hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), patches, and rings are all options for women who want to lower, or control, their estrogen levels.
2. Exercise and Diet Changes May Also Prevent Endometriosis
Fortunately, the lifestyle changes that lower your endometriosis risks are also recommended for a variety of other symptoms and risk factors. For example, limiting your alcohol and caffeine consumption will prevent the hormone increase associated with these substances. Regular exercise is another important way to reduce your chances of developing endometriosis. Exercise four or more hours every week to reduce your body fat percentage, which has a direct correlation with your estrogen levels.
3. Endometriosis Doesn’t Always Cause Infertility
About one third of endometriosis cases are asymptomatic, where there are no symptoms, so it’s difficult for researchers to determine exactly how many women are affected. Endometriosis causes infertility in 30-40% of women who suffer from the condition. However, natural pregnancy is still possible for women with endometriosis, and fertility treatment methods can also help ensure success.
4. Extreme Pain is the Most Common Symptom of Endometriosis
Even when endometriosis symptoms are noticeable, women may mistake them for something else. Because endometriosis is hard to diagnose, it’s important to pay attention to severe or chronic pain, especially if it happens during menstruation, urination, defecation, or penetrative sex. Abnormal tissue growth associated with endometriosis may cause unusually severe pain in your intestines, lower back, pelvis, vagina, and other body parts surrounding your reproductive organs.
5. We Still Don’t Know Exactly What Causes Endometriosis
Unfortunately, the exact causes of endometriosis still aren’t clear. It could be genetic, hormonal, or related to a faulty immune system. If your menstrual blood and tissue flows from your fallopian tube into other parts of your body, it may also result in tissue growth in these areas. Caesarian sections (C-sections) and other abdominal surgeries have also been connected to abnormal growth of endometrial tissue.
6. There’s No Cure, But There are a Variety of Endometriosis Treatment Options
Birth control doesn’t just lower your risk of endometriosis; it’s also the most common endometriosis treatment option. Hormonal birth control pills and devices will help reduce the bleeding and pain related to endometriosis. Your doctor may prescribe a hormone agonist that temporarily induces menopause and stalls the growth of endometriosis, improving your chances of getting pregnant after the treatment is complete.
If you are experiencing endometriosis symptoms, contact the Woman’s Clinic at (501) 664-4131 to schedule an appointment and learn more about your treatment options.