Endometriosis is a common condition, but with very little conversation around the realities of the disorder. Recently, celebrities like Lena Dunham have spoken out about their personal experiences with the condition in hopes to raise awareness. Below is a breakdown of what you need to know about endometriosis.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a debilitating, stressful, and painful condition experienced by women of reproductive age. Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus grows in other regions of the body, usually the abdomen. The misplaced tissue becomes growths or lesions that react to your menstrual cycle. Therefore, each month tissue develops, breaks down, and is expelled.
Menstrual blood is expelled healthily through the vagina, but tissue that is shed from a endometriotic growth is unable to leave the body. This causes inflammation, scarring, and painful symptoms. It can also contribute to infertility or difficulty getting pregnant.
What are Endometriosis Symptoms?
This condition causes pain -- often severe - that may prevent you from being able to function. Symptoms include: severe menstrual cramps, painful intercourse, painful urination or bowel movements, lower back or abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
For women with endometriosis, these symptoms may be experienced during menstruation, approximately 4 - 6 days every 28 days. Which means 48 - 72 days out of every year, those with endometriosis are experiencing a barrage of symptoms.
Some women may experience chronic abdominal and pelvic pain that is not associated with their menstrual cycles, but which occurs on a daily basis and has been reported to last for six months or longer.
There are other rare symptoms, such as leg pain or sciatica, rectal bleeding or blood in the urine, and shortness of breath.
What are Treatments for Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic, relapsing disorder. A health-care professional can help you develop a long-term plan to manage your symptoms and meet your fertility goals.
Although there are treatments for endometriosis, the path to being diagnosed can often be long and frustrating. It can sometimes take seven to 12 years from the onset of symptoms to gain a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis.
There are no definitive treatments for those with endometriosis, and often finding the right treatment can be stressful and expensive. Hormonal therapies, such as progesterone, are often used and are also contained in many birth control therapies; however, it may take a lengthy amount of time for the medication to work. Also, many birth control medications have adverse side-effects and, depending on your health care benefits, might be costly to you.
Other treatments include surgery, which presents its own risks and complications. Pain medications, if taken long term, can often cause abdominal bleeding - which someone with Endometriosis might already be experiencing.
Chronic Pain Sufferers More Likely To Experience Anxiety And Depression
Many women feel like menstrual pain is an inadequate excuse or reason to miss work or events, but endometriosis is a very serious condition that can take over many aspects of your life. Chronic pain sufferers are more likely to experience anxiety and depression as well as physical symptoms, which can compound into a larger issue.
If you need to take time off work, you may be able to use your insurance benefits to help you recover. It may take a trial and error period of trying different therapies as well as lifestyle and diet changes to manage the disorder. But if you are suffering from endometriosis, the first step is to acknowledge your symptoms and seek medical attention.
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