Many girls and women of childbearing age suffer from a condition known as endometriosis. About 6.3 million women have this condition in the USA. But unless diagnosed, these women suffer in silence without knowing the root cause of their painful lower abdominal pain.
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Endometriosis is a medical condition that occurs when the tissues of the lining of the uterus(womb) called the endometrium starts to grow in other areas such as the fallopian tube, ovaries and in other areas of the pelvic region.
For some women, it may also appear in the tummy, bladder or bowels. Endometriosis is very common in girls and women who haven’t yet reached their menopause.
Endometriosis is also a long-life condition that can affect the quality of life of women who are affected by it.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ENDOMETRIOSIS
The common signs that you have endometriosis are:
- Abdominal Pain before, During and after Period
If you are having labour like pains when you are on your period, it is time to get checked. Although period pain is common but it shouldn’t be that painful that it interferes with your daily activities, like stopping you from going to work, school or important meeting and gatherings.
If you constantly have severe menstrual pains that you are unable to do anything, I will advise you go and see your doctor. A pelvic examination may be performed to see what is wrong.
Women with endometriosis have a higher amount of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that lets your body know it is in pain. For example, when a knife cuts your finger, prostaglandins sends this message to the brain and you start to feel the pain in that area.
The more prostaglandins a person produces, the more pain the person feels.
Prostaglandins are also produced in the lining of the uterus. And they help the uterus to contract during menstruation and labour.
Higher amounts of prostaglandins is common among women with Endo or dysmenorrhea. This means that these women feel more pain before their period starts, during their period and even after their period is over.
Remember to seek medical help if you suffer from extreme abdominal cramps during your menstrual cycle.
- Heavy Bleeding During Period
Excessive bleeding while on your period is also one of the symptoms of Endo. Heavy periods is known as menorrhagia and it could be caused by a variety of reasons.
Women who have heavy menstrual period are 2.5 times more likely to develop endometriosis.
Women with endometriosis not only have heavy flow but also notice blood clots in their period as well.
- Pain during and after Sex
Another symptom of endometriosis is cramps during and after sexual intercourse.
Painful intercourse could be caused by trapped endometrial tissues in the fallopian tubes or in the pelvic cavity.
The pain could even be worse if the endometriosis is present behind the vaginal walls or around the lower part of the uterus close to the cervix.
Painful sex caused by endometriosis could become unbearable. If you are experiencing painful periods and intercourse, it’s time to stop suffering in silence and get checked by your doctor.
Also make sure you communicate with your partner about the pains you are feeling. You and your partner can also try other positions that do not involve deep penetrations.
- Painful Bowel Movements
If you have been noticing pain during your bowel movements, you may want to see the doctor to investigated further
Bowel and bladder endometriosis are the two most common types of endo that are difficult to diagnose.
Endometriosis can affect the ileum which may cause you to feel pain at the right side of you abdomen. This pain feels similar to appendicitis pain.
Bowel endometriosis is generally classified as a stage IV endometriosis.
Women with endometriosis may have problems conceiving a baby. Many women do not know they have endo until they have problems getting pregnant.
During fertility check ups, the doctor may discover they have endometriosis blocking their fallopian tubes and also in the ovaries.
If you have been trying to conceive and you notice you have a painful period or pain during sex. Then it is time you get checked by your doctor.
HOW IS ENDOMETRIOSIS DIAGNOSED?
Endometriosis can be diagnosed through:
A pelvic examination to check for the presence of endometriosis will enable your doctor or gynaecologist to determine the exact position and sizes of the internal organs in the pelvic region of the woman.
A pelvic examination is carried out to look at some internal parts of a woman’s body. Parts such as the vulva, uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and rectum. It is commonly done when the doctor is checking for an infection, during pregnancy or when a woman complains about pains in her lower abdomen.
Most times pelvic examination is the first step that the gynaecologist or doctor takes to determine if the symptoms you are feeling is caused by endometriosis.
During ultrasound a transvaginal probe is inserted gently into the vaginal to enable the doctor or sonographer have a better view of the female reproductive organs.
Some doctors also use a transducer (a device that is pressed against the abdomen) to make images of the woman’s internal organs.
Ultrasounds are usually useful in identifying cyst that commonly accompanies endometriosis.
The ultrasound can take up to 30 mins.
Laparoscopy is one of the common ways endometriosis is diagnosed and removed.
A Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that allows the surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and stomach without having to make a large incision or opening on the patients skin.
The surgeon carries out the operation with an instrument called laparoscope.
A laparoscopy is recommended to view the internal organs for diagnosis or also to remove mild endometriosis tissues or scars that are causing pains or infertility.
HOW IS ENDOMETRIOSIS TREATED?
Endometriosis has no cure but a surgery or pain medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help manage the symptoms it causes.