March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month. Learn the symptoms and treatment options for this often un-diagnosed but common condition.
It’s estimated that one in 10 women are diagnosed with endometriosis in their reproductive years. Some women may overlook symptoms associated with this condition, believing them to be associated with a regular menopause cycle.
Very painful menstrual cycles are not normal and should be brought to your physician’s attention. Effective treatments are available.
Endometriosis is a painful disorder where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus, commonly involving the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. The displaced tissue continues to act as it normally would – thickening, breaking down and bleeding with each menstrual cycle – but has no way to exit the body. Complications can develop if the endometriosis involves the ovaries (cysts can form) and surrounding tissue can become irritated and develop scar tissue. In some cases abnormal bands of fibrous tissue (adhesions) develop that can cause pelvic tissue and organs to stick together.
In addition to painful periods that include pelvic, abdominal and lower back pain, other symptoms can include:
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavy bleeding during your period
- Constipation, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Pain with bowel movements or urination
Endometriosis can also cause infertility. Many women are diagnosed with the condition when they seek help for infertility issues.
Diagnosing and treating endometriosis
A pelvic exam and ultrasound can locate cysts, scars or other pelvic abnormalities that can help diagnose endometriosis. Treatment options include pain medications, hormone therapy or surgical procedures.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor or talk about them at your next annual visit.