Have you ever had cramps so painful that you could neither stand up nor sit still? Have you ever suffered from unexplained intestinal problems before or during your period? Does it hurt when you have sex? If so, you may be dealing with endometriosis.
At first, you may think that most women deal with cramps, pelvic pain and bowel issues only on occasion. But the problem with endometriosis is that some healthcare providers and society in general can make women think that all degrees of pelvic pain are normal and acceptable.
The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology linked the “societal normalization of women’s pain and stigma around menstrual issues” with a lack of endometriosis awareness. When fewer people know or talk about endometriosis, the longer it can take for women to get the care and treatment they need to manage this chronic, painful disease.
The truth is that endometriosis is a common condition affecting about 11% of women in the U.S., according to the Office on Women’s Health. Women in their 30s and 40s are most commonly diagnosed with endometriosis. While symptoms usually subside after menopause, they could continue if hormone replacement therapy is used.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to that which grows in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) develops in other areas of the body, usually in the pelvis. It most commonly grows on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic lining.
In harmony with your menstrual cycle, the endometriosis tissue swells and bleeds each month. But unlike normal endometrial tissue, there’s nowhere for endometriosis tissue to exit the body. Over time, these troublesome tissues can cause cysts, scar tissue and lesions to develop.
What Does Endometriosis Feel Like?
So what does endometriosis feel like? These are the most common symptoms of endometriosis:
- Pain: You may experience severe menstrual cramps before or during your period. Endometriosis pain may feel like a dull ache or stabbing pain. Endometriosis can cause deep pain during or after sex. (This pain goes beyond any initial discomfort caused by penetration.) You may also feel endometriosis pain in your legs or back.
- Bleeding: You may notice heavy menstrual bleeding or spotting/bleeding between periods.
- Gastrointestinal problems: You may experience gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. These symptoms can be mistaken for a bowel disorder.
- Infertility: Scar tissue and swelling in the reproductive organs from endometriosis can make it harder to become pregnant. Investigating infertility struggles may help lead to an endometriosis diagnosis.
Interestingly enough, the severity of symptoms does not indicate the severity or progression of the disease. Consult your doctor for an accurate assessment and diagnosis if you’re experiencing endometriosis symptoms.
Impact on Daily Life
It’s no surprise that endometriosis can affect many areas of your life, including work, finances and recreation.
The pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis may make it challenging to work productively, especially just before and during your period. A study published by Fertility and Sterility revealed that women with endometriosis experience a loss of productivity for an average of 11 hours per week.
Endometriosis is known to be an expensive condition to manage. Advances in Therapy estimated that the average annual adjusted direct costs for each endometriosis patient were $16,573 — about three times higher than a non-endometriosis patient. These costs often result from different types of surgical treatment.
Aside from work and finances, endometriosis symptoms can cause you to miss out on social and recreational activities. The International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics revealed that frequent bouts of endometriosis pain could lead to social withdrawal and isolation. This could make it difficult for some to maintain relationships.
SHE’s Here for You
At SHEbd, we know firsthand that dealing with a chronic condition like endometriosis can take a serious toll on your overall well-being. That is why we are dedicated to providing you with resources that can empower you to take control of your health and live your best life.
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