Endometriosis is painful and hard to deal with. When so many other issues can affect a woman’s reproductive system, being sure the cause of your symptoms is endometriosis is essential. In fact, endometriosis has symptoms similar to many other gynecological conditions, so ruling those out is also important.
The first step to endometriosis treatment is a formal diagnosis of the condition. Get familiar with the signs and symptoms, and if you are experiencing any of them, book an appointment with your gynecologist as soon as possible.
What is Endometriosis?
The endometrium (uterine lining) lines the inside of the uterus, shedding once a month to cause a period. Endometriosis is a gynecological disorder in which the endometrial tissue, normally inside your uterus, grows on the outside too.
Endometriosis results in abnormalities because of the external growth of endometrial tissue causing problems. It is a very common condition and often goes undiscovered for many years. An estimated 11% of women in the U.S. have endometriosis, and not all of them will have it diagnosed.
Endometriosis can be caused by multiple culprits; two of the most common are retrograde menstruation and estrogen.
Retrograde menstruation occurs when menstrual blood containing endometrial cells moves in the wrong direction — backward to the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis, instead of exiting the body. The cells then settle into the walls of the pelvis and nearby organs, where they grow and cause greater menstrual bleeding.
Alternatively, the influence of estrogen can transform embryonic cells into endometrial cells during puberty. Because there are many possible causes, you must have a diagnosis from your doctor.
One in three cases of endometriosis are asymptomatic, but some risks still accompany the condition. Untreated endometriosis increases the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Additionally, endometriosis causes infertility in approximately 40% of cases. This can be devastating for some women. There are treatments for endometriosis-induced infertility, but, again, a formal diagnosis of endometriosis is essential to access this.
How Do You Know if You Have Endometriosis?
Because so many symptoms of endometriosis also occur in women who do not have it (such as menstrual cramps) how to know if you have endometriosis is a big concern for many women.
There are a variety of signs and symptoms to watch out for. Some are common, some are not, and not all women experience symptoms the same.
Signs and symptoms include:
Perhaps the biggest aspect of diagnosis is how do you know if you have endometriosis or a condition with similar symptoms? For example, if you have heavy periods and pain, this could actually be a sign of fibroids, which are benign growths that can be dispersed with medication. If you are experiencing uncomfortable bowel movements or urination, this may not be endometriosis but polyps which can be easily treated. Bloating, pain, and discomfort might be an ovarian cyst. Whatever it is, your OBGYN can help you identify and treat it.
Endometriosis Treatment Options
When investigating endometriosis treatments, you should know there is no cure for this condition. It can, however, be managed. The first step is getting a diagnosis, at which point a treatment plan will be drawn up.
Hormonal birth control is a common treatment option for women with endometriosis. A drug to induce menopause can also reduce the growth of endometriosis.
Your nutrition also plays a role in endometriosis treatment plans. A high fiber diet can reduce some endometrial symptoms. Fill your plate with lots of colorful vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Omega-3 found in salmon and herring may reduce some symptoms. To reduce pain, magnesium rich foods like pumpkin seeds, avocado, and almonds can be useful. Experimenting with new foods and exploring new recipes while benefiting from better health can be fun!
In severe cases of endometriosis, gynecological procedures to remove some of the excess tissue may be necessary. Other, less invasive options are generally explored before any surgical procedures are recommended. Unfortunately, this condition may require some trial and error, but there is certainly hope it will be managed.
If you are having difficulty managing the emotional impact of a chronic condition, you may benefit from counseling or talk therapy. Experiencing chronic pain is often linked to depression, and infertility can be hard to accept.
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of one-on-one therapy, endometriosis support groups are available, even online, and they can be extremely valuable for women struggling with diagnosis or management.
For More Information
If you suspect you have endometriosis, are exhibiting symptoms of it, or have already been diagnosed but would like to discuss endometriosis treatment, call The Woman's Clinic. A caring, qualified professional will discuss your options, help you develop a treatment plan, and make sure you understand what it means for your life going forward.