While it may seem like second nature for women to experience some level of pelvic or gastrointestinal distress, those bothersome symptoms aren’t necessarily just a normal part of being a woman - and they definitely shouldn’t be dismissed.
It’s crucial to recognize and speak up about your symptoms. Endometriosis is an often-underdiagnosed condition but accessing treatment can ease pain and help prevent any potential complications.
A Commonly Misunderstood Condition
What is endometriosis?
Each time you have your period, your uterus is shedding its lining – a lining that’s made up of endometrial tissue. But in 1 in 10 women, this endometrial tissue also grows outside of the uterus on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer uterus, bladder, intestines, and/or rectum.
The excess tissue still responds as it would in the uterus during a menstrual cycle – thickening, breaking down, and bleeding – but it gets trapped. The resulting inflammation, scar tissue, and lesions create a painful condition called endometriosis.
Any girl or woman who has menstrual periods can be affected, but it’s most common during your 30s and 40s. The diagnosis is often missed since the symptoms often mimic other conditions, especially gastrointestinal disorders.
Possible Signs of Endometriosis
You may experience just a few or many of the symptoms below:
- Pelvic pain
- Cramps that occur long before or after your period
- Painful urination or painful bowel movements
- Pain during or after intercourse
- Lower back aches
- Stomach and gastrointestinal discomfort
- A diagnosis of IBS that doesn’t respond to treatment
- Menstrual and fertility concerns
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Spotting between periods
- Painful periods
- Difficulty getting pregnant
There is Help
While there isn’t an exact known cause of the condition, there are treatments and support available to make life with endometriosis more manageable.
Getting a Diagnosis
The most important step is to open a conversation with your Seven Hills provider about your symptoms. Your provider may then recommend:
- A pelvic exam to feel for abnormalities
- An ultrasound to view cysts or an MRI for further imaging
- Laparoscopy to look for tissue growth and to perform a biopsy. This minimally invasive procedure is the confirmatory test for diagnosis.
Partner with your provider to find a treatment combination that reduces your symptoms and protects your health.
- Pain relievers
- Hormone therapy
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Laparoscopic surgery provides symptom relief by removing scar tissue and lesions through small incisions in the pelvis. It’s often done on an outpatient basis, and the procedure can be repeated if the endometrial tissue later grows in additional areas.
- A hysterectomy is performed in severe cases, but it is a last-resort treatment and not often necessary.
- Lifestyle changes
- Getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, exercising, limiting alcohol/caffeine, and engaging in stress relieving activities help many women take an active role in their symptom management.
Caring for Your Fertility
Your most powerful resources – early detection and access to treatment – can help you protect and care for your reproductive system.
Many women with endometriosis can conceive naturally and carry a health pregnancy, but inflammation and scar tissue affect fertility for up to 50% of women. Surgical treatment may be an option, especially if endometriosis is found in the early stages, and it often results in an increased ability for you to become pregnant and carry to term.
If your fertility has been affected by endometriosis, be sure to empower yourself with knowledge and support and reach out to your provider to discuss your next steps.
Start the Conversation
At Seven Hills, we believe each woman is unique – and that her symptoms can be, too. When you connect with a Seven Hills provider, you’ll gain a partner that can help you find the root of your symptoms, reduce discomfort, and protect your health.