What is Endometriosis? Symptoms, Treatments & What to Know

What is Endometriosis? Symptoms, Treatments & What to Know

Endometriosis can be hard to live with. 😩

It is often very painful, and it can make it difficult to get pregnant.

The good news is that if you have endometriosis, there are a few different treatment options that can help you.

We’ve enlisted one of our trusted experts to answer some of your biggest questions right away. 👩‍⚕️

Starting, of course, with what is endometriosis?

Ready to dive into the details?

In this article: 📝

  • What is endometriosis?
  • What are common symptoms of endometriosis?
  • How serious is endometriosis?
  • How is endometriosis diagnosed?
  • What causes endometriosis?
  • Who is at risk for endometriosis?
  • What are some options for endometriosis treatment?

What is endometriosis?

We’ll start with the endometrium first.

The endometrium is the medical word for the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus.

Your body grows a new endometrium to prepare for a fertilized egg every month.

If an egg isn’t fertilized, you don’t get pregnant, and your body releases the endometrium, together with blood and mucus from your vagina and cervix, during your period.

Endometriosis is when this tissue is found on the outside of the uterus or on the ovaries, or in the fallopian tubes.

In other words, where it’s not meant to be.

Sometimes it’s also found on the lining of the pelvic cavity and, in rare cases, on and around other abdominal organs, like the bladder, intestines, stomach, and rectum.

When you have endometriosis, the tissue that’s outside of your uterus behaves just like it would if it were inside your uterus.

This means that every menstrual cycle, it thickens, breaks down, and bleeds.

But because it has nowhere to go, this can be very painful and can cause inflammation, scar tissue, and cysts.

The fibrous tissue that builds up can also cause some organs to stick together.

Endometriosis affects between 10 and 15% of women of childbearing age.

But, it’s also possible to have endometriosis after menopause, though it’s less common.

What are common symptoms of endometriosis?

As a condition where uterine-lining tissue is found outside of the uterus, you can imagine endometriosis symptoms would be among the most obvious (read: painful).

And the most serious.

It’s true, endometriosis can cause terrible pain and discomfort that can get in the way of your daily life.

But the level of severity can change from person to person.

And its effects aren’t only physical—endometriosis can also make you feel anxious or depressed.

It’s also possible to have two or more similar conditions—like PCOS and endometriosis—at the same time, which can be confusing.

And this is often why it takes most women between four and eleven years after they first experience symptoms to get diagnosed. 💔

Knowing what the symptoms are, and going to your doctor with a list of what you’ve been experiencing, can help them get your diagnosis right.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen or back (this might be worse during your period)
  • Excessive period pain and cramps
  • Abnormal or heavy periods
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Infertility
  • Finding it painful to pee or poop while you’re on your period
  • Spotting or bleeding between periods

How serious is endometriosis?

As we mentioned above, not everyone experiences the same symptoms of endometriosis.

So, while some people are badly affected, others might not notice their symptoms much at all.

But let’s be clear, the amount of pain you’re in is not a fair measurement of how serious your endometriosis is.

Really, it’s the impact it has on your daily quality of life.

We’re talking fatigue, poor mental health, debilitating pain, and, yes, impaired intimacy.

“Painful sex due to endometriosis can lead to interruption or avoidance of intercourse and affect the sexual health of affected individuals and their partners,” explains HCPC specialist Biomedical scientist (and women’s health correspondent) Kellie Leonard.

“In fact, one study found that more than 45% of women with endometriosis reported painful sex as one of the primary symptoms.”

And then there’s the difficulty of diagnosis.

Studies on chronic pain and endometriosis have found that 70-80% of endometriosis patients suffer from chronic pelvic pain (CPP) disorders like interstitial cystitis and painful bladder syndrome.

With similarities between endometriosis and other conditions, like pelvic inflammatory disease, it makes sense why it is often misdiagnosed.

Can endometriosis go away?

Unfortunately, endometriosis is a lifelong condition—another reason for its serious status.

Plus, there’s also no known way to prevent endo, but there are some treatments that can help (more on that below).

Really, the only way to fully alleviate the difficulty of having endometriosis is to raise awareness and stop normalizing debilitating menstrual pain that puts a person’s life on hold.

“Raising awareness can help people get diagnosed early,” says Leonard, “in fact, early treatment can slow or halt the natural progression of the disease and reduce the long-term symptoms.”

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

So, how exactly do you get an endometriosis diagnosis?

If your doctor thinks you might have endometriosis, they’ll examine your vagina and pelvis.

They might also do an ultrasound, an MRI, or a laparoscopy.

A laparoscopy is when a doctor makes a small cut in your abdomen and passes a thin tube through to see if they can find signs of endometriosis.

If they find suspicious tissue, they’ll likely send it to a lab to confirm your endometriosis diagnosis.

A laparoscopy and biopsy is the only way to know for sure that you have endometriosis.

What causes endometriosis?

Doctors still don’t know for sure.

It’s probably caused by a few different factors, such as:

  • Menstrual blood traveling back through the fallopian tubes and into your pelvic cavity rather than leaving your body during your period
  • Endometrial tissue being moved to other areas of the body by your blood vessels or lymphatic system
  • Endometrial tissue attaching to the walls of the abdomen after surgery, like a C-section or hysterectomy
  • If you have an immune system disorder, your body might not be able to identify and dispose of the tissue it finds growing outside of your uterus

And it’s often because there isn’t a definite known cause that there isn’t an easy way to prevent endometriosis.

“There is new research to suggest a bacterium known as fusobacterium could contribute to endometriosis,” says Leonard.

“In total, 64% of patients with endometriosis had this bacterium, compared to less than 10% of controls.”

“And researchers are now looking into clinical trials for the production of antibiotics as a form of treatment.” 🤞

Who is at risk for endometriosis?

There are a few conditions that might put you at higher risk of endometriosis, such as if you:

Is endometriosis hereditary?

Yes, potentially.

It’s possible that if your mother or sister has endometriosis, you might be at greater risk.

What are some options for endometriosis treatment?

There isn’t a cure, but there is treatment for endometriosis that can bring some ease to your symptoms, such as:

Another option is endometriosis surgery—which is also used as a treatment option for infertility.

This is usually done laparoscopically, meaning two small incisions are made in your abdomen (much like tubal ligation).

One is for a light and camera to be inserted into, and the second is for the tools that will be used to remove the endometriosis lesions, adhesions, and scar tissues.

Your doctor might choose to make a larger cut, which is called a laparotomy, but this isn’t very common.

A final surgical option is a hysterectomy.

This involves removing the uterus completely and is a major surgery.

If the ovaries are removed too, you won’t have endometriosis anymore because your body won’t be releasing estrogen, but you will go into menopause, which has its own complex symptoms.

How to treat your endometriosis is a very personal decision.

And only one you can make after a chat with a health professional you can trust.

Endometriosis affects different people in different ways.

But it’s also important to remember that endometriosis doesn’t just affect you physically.

It can take its toll emotionally, too, especially if you’re trying to conceive (TTC).

If you’re battling with everything that endometriosis brings with it, you’re not alone.

Our endometriosis support group is here to help.

Sign up, and join a community of people who know what you’re going through. ❤️


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