We can all generally agree that menstrual cramps are the worst. But for some women, menstrual cramps sound like a walk in the park compared to their monthly experience. This may be because they suffer from endometriosis, a disease that affects the period. This fairly common disease is rarely talked about although it affects one in every ten women. The sensitivity and secrecy of a woman’s period often prevents her from speaking up about her pain. Even if she does, endometriosis can often be misunderstood. March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month, and our team of doctors at The Woman’s Clinic want to inform you about the details of endometriosis so you can get the help you need.
What Is It?
Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the uterus is found in other areas of the pelvic cavity. The rogue tissue attaches itself to the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterosacral ligaments, peritoneum, or the spaces in between the bladder, vagina, and rectum but still functions like it would inside the uterus. Doctors are still unsure how this tissue from the uterus gets to any of these other places, but there are several theories. One theory links endometriosis to retrograde bleeding. This theory states that during menstruation, blood containing endometrial cells flows backward into the fallopian tubes or pelvic cavity rather than out of the body. Another theory suggests genetics plays a key role in passing down the disease through generations. Other popular theories in the fertility field consider an abnormal development of the uterus. There are still many questions, but we do know that endometriosis affects most women between the ages of 25 and 35. However, sometimes it can occur as early as age 11, or when a young girl has her period for the first time. Many women may suffer from endometriosis and not even realize it because the symptoms can easily be misconstrued as a really painful or heavy period.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Symptoms include intense cramps known as “killer cramps.” Killer cramps kill the opportunity to carry on with life as normal. The cramping may be so painful and so intense that a woman must lie down in the fetal position until the cramp subsides. Many women may not realize that this amount of pain is not a normal part of menstruation. Another symptom is a prolonged and heavy flow, as well as an abnormal period. Abnormal periods are not just linked to pain, but include cramping or numbness in the legs, gastrointestinal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Endometriosis may also be recognized if there is pain during sexual activity, infertility, or extreme fatigue.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. The best chance of erasing the pain and discomfort is to get rid of the excess tissue completely. An invasive laparoscopic excision surgery to remove the tissue that is above and below the surface may be advised. Unless the complete lesion is removed, you may still experience pain. Be sure to talk to your doctor in depth about surgery options. Until surgery, there are options to treat the symptoms, but these will not cure endometriosis. Relief from the pain and discomfort can be found through oral contraceptives, a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers. Others have found that acupuncture is helpful, as well as making adjustments to your diet. Every person responds differently, so talk with your doctor about treatments and relief options that might be best for you.
At The Woman’s Clinic, we have two convenient locations. Our doctors are dedicated to help you discover not only what’s causing you pain, but how to treat it. We understand the confusion around menstrual cramps and endometriosis and at The Woman’s Clinic, your symptoms won’t be dismissed, but carefully considered before you’re given several treatment options. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us today so that you can get back to the life you love.