If you have ovaries and a uterus, you’re well aware of the ways in which menstruation can affect your life. For most women, it may mean experiencing cramps, bloating, and the occasional mood swing. But, generally speaking, it’s relatively easy to go on with daily life. However, if you have endometriosis, symptoms can feel severe enough to halt all activities and leave you feeling in pain, isolated, and miserable. Why does it happen? What are other symptoms that may indicate you have the condition? And, how can you treat it?
What is endometriosis?
The inner layer of the uterus is lined with tissue called endometrium. During menstruation, this tissue becomes thicker as tiny blood vessels multiply in preparation to receive a fertilized egg. If pregnancy does not occur, the tissue breaks down and the blood exits the body through menstruation.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrium travels outside the uterus and envelops other reproductive organs — such as the ovaries and the fallopian tubes — or attaches to other tissues in the pelvis. Since the endometrium is displaced, the extra blood and tissues have nowhere to go to exit the body. In turn, this causes cysts on the ovaries. For many women, this translates to severe pain during their menstrual cycle.
Causes of Endometriosis
The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown. However, the condition is more likely to develop in women who have other family members with the condition, those who have fewer than 25 days between periods, as well as women who’ve undergone a cesarean.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Some women with endometriosis do not have symptoms. However, those who do experience them right before their period — with symptoms lasting for several days. They are also severe enough to disrupt their everyday lives. These include:
- Intense cramps
- Intense pain that feels like sharp stabbing or gnawing
- Heavy periods
- Severe migraines
- Severe lower back pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain during urination and/or bowel movements
- Diarrhea or constipation
Since endometriosis can also affect the nerves around the groin area, the pain may radiate to the hips and legs. For some women, this results in limping. In addition, endometriosis can make it difficult to become pregnant — especially if the displaced tissue affects your fallopian tubes to the extent that eggs are unable to meet sperm.
Treatment of Endometriosis
There are several ways to treat endometriosis. Which approach works best for you depends on the severity of your condition, as well as whether you are planning on eventually becoming pregnant. Treatment options include:
Taking birth control pills — as well as birth control patches — hep control the hormones that cause endometrium buildup. As a result, you experience a decrease in pain and related debilitating symptoms.
Progestin injections, implants, nasal spray, or intrauterine devices can pause menstrual periods — halting the growth of endometrium. Note that hormone treatment may cause weight gain, acne, body hair, and/or depression.
Danazol is a drug that stops your body from releasing estrogen. However, talk to your doctor about being on birth control while taking this medication. Getting pregnant while taking it may cause female babies to be born with male traits — such as facial hair or a deep voice.
If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, laparoscopic surgery will allow your doctor to remove endometrium tissue to make it more likely for an egg and sperm to meet. After surgery, you many need to take hormone medication.
This type of surgery would only be done as a last resort — as it involves removing the uterus. In some cases, an oophorectomy — removal of the ovaries — may also be necessary to completely eliminate the pain.
OB-GYN Women’s Center Can Provide Treatment
At OB-GYN Women’s Center, we understand that when faced with endometriosis, things can get overwhelming.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. Let’s discuss your options and find out the best course of action for you.