What Is Endometriosis?
In my previous post, I talked about my experience with endometriosis, and today I want to share more about what endometriosis is, as well as the signs and symptoms of endo.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common inflammatory condition estimated to affect 176 million period having humans worldwide during their reproductive years. Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is found outside of the uterus; this tissue is usually found around the pelvis, ovaries, bowel, and bladder and can form legions, nodules, and cysts. Endometriosis can also cause adhesions (scar tissue causes internal organs or tissue to stick together).
Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms include:
Painful periods - this is often the first symptom if endometriosis; it is also the most common symptom.
Pain at other times of your cycle - this includes ovulation or pain felt intermittently throughout the month.
Abnormal menstrual bleeding - this includes heavy periods, long periods, and bleeding between periods.
Bowel problems similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Sub-fertility or infertility - infertility is described as trying to conceive for a year, with property timed intercourse, without success), whereas the term sub-fertility refers to an extended period of non-conception that has not yet reached a year.
Other symptoms may include:
Lower back pain
Constant tiredness / fatigue
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Recurrent urinary tract infections.
The severity of symptoms experienced is not usually related to the extent of the disease, for example, some people who have mild endometriosis can suffer severe symptoms, and vice versa. Also, not everyone with endometriosis will have regular monthly symptoms.
Your doctor may perform pelvic exam; this is to see if you have any tenderness or cysts which could be followed by a scan. This won’t lead to a definite diagnosis, as endometriosis can only be diagnosed with a laparoscopy, but it can help your doctor decide on the next steps.
A laparoscopy is a diagnostic procedure used to examine the organs inside the abdomen; it is performed under a general anesthetic. During surgery, a small incision is made in the belly button and a tube inserted so the surgeon can see the pelvis area. Other small incisions are made around the lower abdomen, to allow surgical instruments to pass through. Your surgeon can see the areas of endometriosis and can usually remove them.
Endometriosis cannot be cured, but it can treat. Treatment will depend on a range of factors including:
how severe your symptoms are
where the endometriosis is
whether you plan on having children
Laparoscopic surgery can remove endometriosis and there are also medical treatments available. Some medical treatments include:
The contraceptive pill
An intrauterine device such as the Mirena
Pain medication, either through a prescription from your doctor or over the counter.
Lifestyle Modification and Alternative Treatment
Managing endometriosis isn't just about medical and surgical treatment, continually working with your health professionals and self-management are what usually delivers the best outcomes. Here some tips:
Nutrition - bowel related symptoms can be relieved by making changes to your diet. Those suffering from endo are usually sensitive to certain foods (gluten and dairy seem to be incredibly common); keeping a food diary can be a great way of seeing which foods make your symptoms worse.
Exercise - Regular exercise is the best non-drug treatment for pain as well as being a complementary treatment to surgery and medication (light exercise such as walking is advised after surgery, but it's always good to get advice from your surgeon and/or a physiotherapist who understands endometriosis and pelvic pain).
A hot water bottle or heat pack - heat therapy can help soothe muscle aches and cramps.
A bath with Epsom salts - A combination of heat therapy and epsom salts, which can soothe muscles and reduce swelling.
Endometriosis New Zealand: https://nzendo.org.nz/
Family Planning New Zealand article on Endometriosis: https://www.familyplanning.org.nz/news/2016/endometriosis
World Endometriosis Society: http://endometriosis.ca/
EndoActive (Australia + New Zealand): https://endoactive.org.au/
Inclusive Support For Transgender and Non-Binary with Endometriosis With Cori Smith - http://www.thisendolife.com/this-endolife-podcast-episodes/2018/6/18/creating-inclusive-endometriosis-care-and-communities-for-transgender-and-non-binary-people-with-endometriosis