Endometriosis often goes undiagnosed in many women. “Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrium (the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus) is actually found outside of the uterus. These areas of endometriosis can occur on the surfaces of internal organs and the lining of your abdominal and pelvic cavities (peritoneum),” explains AdventHealth OB/GYN Dr. Cecille Tapia-Santiago .
Endometriosis is most commonly found in the pelvis and results in pain caused by swelling, fluctuating with the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. “This condition is actually quite common and occurs in about 10% of women during their reproductive years,” says Dr. Tapia-Santiago.
Unfortunately, this condition can significantly affect a woman’s quality of life and even fertility. Making matters worse, most women don’t realize that severe pain during their periods isn’t normal, or that endometriosis treatment options exist. Dr. Tapia-Santiago is here to explain more and help you know when to talk to your OB/GYN about symptoms.
Endometriosis Symptoms and Risk Factors
Dr. Tapia-Santiago explains that “the most common symptom of endometriosis is long-term pelvic pain, most typically before and during the menstrual cycle.” Pain can sometimes be felt during sexual intercourse or bowel movements, too, depending on where the endometriotic tissue is located.
Because endometriosis can lead to heavy cycles and infertility, talk to your health care provider about any concerning symptoms. It’s common for the pain to get worse over time, with every period you have. You may also experience other symptoms, such as:
- Bleeding that lasts for more than seven days
- Bleeding that soaks through one or more tampons or pads per hour for several hours
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Cramps that begin early or before your cycle
- Cramps that don’t go away with over-the-counter medication
- Pain when using the bathroom
If any of these symptoms sound too familiar to you, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor right away.
What Causes Endometriosis?
While the cause of endometriosis isn’t clear, doctors have identified several factors that may put you at an increased risk of developing the condition. You may be at risk for endometriosis if you have:
- A low body mass index
- A mother or sister with the condition
- Menstrual cycles of 27 days or less
- Never given birth
- Started menstruating before age 10
- Uterine abnormalities
Endometriosis typically develops several years after you start menstruating. However, even if you have a few of these risk factors, you may never develop the condition.
Endometriosis and Pregnancy
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists , about 4 in 10 women who struggle with infertility have endometriosis. “Some women with endometriosis have no noticeable symptoms and may find out about their condition when they have difficulty getting pregnant,” says Dr. Tapia-Santiago.
Other women living with endometriosis notice dramatic flare-ups of symptoms during their reproductive years. Not only does it strongly impact a woman’s quality of life, but endometriosis can affect lifestyle choices and interpersonal relationships, too.
Several options can help manage endometriosis. “Treatment may be medicinal or surgical, depending on the severity and the patient’s desire for fertility,” Dr. Tapia-Santiago says.
Living With Endometriosis
With such a significant impact, endometriosis is a serious concern, but hope and help are here for you. AdventHealth providers who specialize in endometriosis treatment can work with you to find the right treatments to help you live a fulfilling life.
While endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain, there are other causes of pain as well. Keep in mind that “killer cramps” are never normal, but they can be managed. Talk to your health care provider about all of your symptoms — even minor ones — so that they can make a correct diagnosis and treatment plan for you.
You Don’t Have to Face Endometriosis Alone
There is no cure for endometriosis, but several treatment options are available, including lifestyle modifications, medication and surgery. Our Health Navigation Team can help you get started treating your symptoms and put you in touch with a care provider. Visit HerHealthNavigator.com to get started.