Endometriosis is a condition that affects millions of women around the world, yet many of them suffer in silence, believing that they simply have to accept the painful periods that come along with it. But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are treatment options available for those suffering from endometriosis, so you don’t have to stay in the dark about this common condition. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what endometriosis is and how you can take action to reduce its painful symptoms.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus, often on other organs and structures in the pelvic area. Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological conditions, affecting an estimated 6–10% of women of reproductive age in the United States.
The misplaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would — thickening, breaking down, and bleeding with each menstrual cycle — but because it has no way to exit the body, it becomes trapped. This trapped tissue can cause inflammation, scarring, and adhesions (bands of painful, fibrous tissue). The most common locations for endometriosis are the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the area around the uterus and ovaries. However, in rare cases it may also occur in other parts of the body.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful condition that can cause a range of symptoms, including lower abdominal pain, pain during menstruation or intercourse, painful bowel movements or urination, excessive bleeding during menstruation, and irregular periods. In some cases, endometriosis can lead to infertility or difficulty getting pregnant. Irregular periods are common for those with endometriosis, as the extra tissue can grow outside the uterus and interfere with normal menstrual cycles. Painful intercourse can also be associated with the condition, as the tissue growing outside the uterus will press on nearby organs. Aside from infertility, endometriosis can also cause weight gain, chronic fatigue, intestinal pain, bloating, and other digestive issues.
What Causes Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a complex condition that can have many causes, but the most commonly accepted one is that it is caused by a hormonal imbalance. The hormones estrogen and progesterone play an important role in regulating the menstrual cycle, and when there is an imbalance between them, it can trigger endometriosis. This is known as estrogen dominance, and it can cause the immune system to overstimulate endometrial tissue.
Endometriosis is also an inflammatory condition, which can lead to further inflammation if not properly managed. A weakened immune system can make the body more vulnerable to infections and other issues, so it is important to keep the immune system strong and healthy.
Gut dysbiosis and environmental toxins can increase the risk of endometriosis, as they can alter the body’s hormones and cytokines. Poor liver function can also contribute to endometriosis by interfering with how the body processes estrogen. If there is too much estrogen in the system, it can lead to the formation of adhesions, which are one of the hallmarks of endometriosis.
How Do I Know If I Have Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms, such as pelvic pain and irregular periods, can be indicative of other conditions. However, there are tests that your provider can do to help with diagnosis. Your provider may conduct a physical exam to check for lumps or masses in the pelvic area. They may also order imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI scans to detect endometrial implants outside the uterus. The only definitive way to confirm the diagnosis is through laparoscopy and biopsy. This procedure involves making a small incision in the abdomen and inserting a camera to look for endometrial tissue. The tissue is then biopsied and sent to a pathologist to view under a microscope to confirm diagnosis.
You can screen for endometriosis and treat expectantly based history, exam, and symptoms. If you suspect you might have endometriosis, answer the questions below. If you answer “yes” to 1 or more of the questions, you should contact your healthcare provider to discuss options for diagnosis, management, and treatment.
- Do you have severe menstrual cramps?
- Do you experience pelvic pain the worsens during ovulation and menstruation?
- Do you have excessive bleeding during menstruation?
- Do you have lower back, abdominal, pelvic pain?
- Do you have pain with intercourse?
- Do you have painful urination or bowel movements?
- Do you have bloating, nausea, fatigue, constipation, or diarrhea especially during menses?
- Are you experiencing infertility?
What Is the Treatment for Endometriosis?
Hormonal birth control, like the pill, can help to manage symptoms of endometriosis such as cramps and painful intercourse, but it is not a root cause solution. It is important to find symptom relief so that you can focus your energy on healing the root cause of endometriosis. It is possible to treat endometriosis without birth control and still live a joyful life.
A multifactorial approach is necessary when treating endometriosis, which includes hormonal balancing, dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, stress management, regular exercise, limiting alcohol, and supplement support. Creating a healthcare team with a functional medicine provider, acupuncturist, massage therapist, counselor, and other health providers can be beneficial in managing symptoms and addressing the root cause of endometriosis. Painful intercourse can be addressed through physical therapy. A combination of all these approaches can help women to find relief from endometriosis.
How To Live with Endometriosis?
Living with endometriosis can be a difficult and overwhelming experience. The pain and discomfort associated with the condition can make it hard to focus on daily activities and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many women feel isolated because of the lack of understanding around endometriosis, which makes it hard to talk about it or seek support.
Seeking support from friends, family members, and other women who have experienced endometriosis can also be beneficial. Finding an online or in-person support group can provide an invaluable outlet for venting feelings and exchanging advice.
By learning more about endometriosis, seeking appropriate medical treatment, and making lifestyle changes, women with endometriosis can take control of their condition and live life to its fullest.