As you may know by now, I suffer from endometriosis. I’ve talked about it on the podcast on episode 73: Yoga, Chronic Pain, and Mental Health and episode 24: Chronic Pain and Yoga Tune Up® and in this blog.
I thought it would help to learn about endometriosis, its co-conditions, its symptoms, and its treatments. It’s such a prevalent illness, I believe it’s essential to raise awareness around it. It could help women get diagnosed earlier and get better help.
What is endometriosis?
John Hopkins Medicine describes endometriosis as: “a common gynecological condition affecting an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women of childbearing age. The name of this condition comes from the word “endometrium,” which is the tissue that lines the uterus. During a woman’s regular menstrual cycle, this tissue builds up and is shed if she does not become pregnant. Women with endometriosis develop tissue that looks and acts like endometrial tissue outside of the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity. Each month, this misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle by building up and breaking down just as the endometrium does, resulting in small bleeding inside of the pelvis. This leads to inflammation, swelling and scarring of the normal tissue surrounding the endometriosis implants. When the ovary is involved, blood can become embedded in the normal ovarian tissue, forming a “blood blister” surrounded by a fibrous cyst, called an endometrioma.”
Endometriosis is classified into 4 stages, but it’s important to know that the amount of pain a woman experience is not necessarily related to the severity of the disease. The endometriosis stage is based on the location, amount, depth, and size of the endometrial tissue, 1 being minimal to 4 being severe. The diagnosis generally requires laparoscopic exploratory surgery.
Causes of endometriosis
The causes of endometriosis are still unknown, although different theories have been advanced. Causes may be the combination of multiple factors, including genetics, immune dysfunction, and environmental. For that reason, and it’s been more recently approached as an autoimmune disease.
As I mentioned, there’s no direct correlation between the advancement of the illness and the symptoms, so every woman experiences the symptoms differently. The most common symptoms are:
- Pain, especially excessive menstrual cramps that may be felt in the abdomen or lower back
- Pain during intercourse
- Abnormal or heavy menstrual flow
- Painful urination
- Painful bowel movements
- Other gastrointestinal problems, such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation
- Spotting between periods
- Feeling sick, vomiting, fainting during their period
- Difficulty participating in day-to-day activity due to pain, weakness, and exhaustion
Endometriosis is very rarely an isolated issue. Since endometriosis is considered an autoimmune, other autoimmune diseases like hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis are also commonly found in the same woman. Other inflammatory conditions are also linked to endometriosis like painful bladder syndrome, IBS, Crohn’s disease.
There is no known cure for endometriosis. In some cases, where fertility hasn’t been affected, pregnancy might alleviate the long-term symptoms. The most common treatments for endometriosis are pain medication, hormonal therapies, surgery to remove the lesions and scar tissue or a full hysterectomy.
Now you know more about endometriosis. Let me know if you have questions. If you suffer from endometriosis and would like to chat with me about it, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to go next?
Listen to the podcast episode 73: Yoga, Chronic Pain and Mental Health Listen to the podcast episode 24: Chronic Pain and Yoga Tune Up® Read my blog post: Endometriosis and me; 3 ways to change the story.