Medically Reviewed by Eric C. Coughlin, MD
Endometriosis has no known cause. Yet, it strikes one out of 10 women between the ages of 15 and 49. Starting as early as a girl’s first period, endometriosis symptoms may not even be relieved with menopause.
Some people mistakenly believe that endometriosis is simply painful periods. Not true.
“The endometrium forms the lining of a woman’s uterus,” says McLeod OB/GYN Eric Coughlin, MD. “When this type of tissue begins to grow outside the uterus it’s called endometriosis. Tissue might grow in the fallopian tubes, bladder, ureters, ovaries or rectum.”
These tissue implants can grow and bleed, similar to the lining of the uterus during the menstrual cycle, causing swelling, inflammation and irritation. When the tissue breaks down, scar tissue forms.
Symptoms vary from person to person. Although many Gynecologists are learning more and more about the problem and how to spot it, endometriosis can be difficult to properly diagnose. The Endometriosis Foundation says it can take 10 years for a woman to be correctly diagnosed.
WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN’T
During pregnancy, a woman will experience a reduction in her symptoms. However, symptoms may recur after the child is born.
Hormone treatments can temporarily subdue the symptoms. But problems will likely recur if treatment ends.
Pain can be treated with over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen.
A common misimpression is that endometriosis causes infertility. The truth is that most women with this medical issue do go on to become pregnant.
A common mistake you hear is that a hysterectomy will cure the endometriosis. Removing the uterus without taking out the ovaries and without removing the actual endometriosis tissue outside the uterus will not result in ridding a woman of the problem.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Severe pain during a period is not normal. Make a list of the symptoms you are experiencing. Be ready to discuss this with your Gynecologist. If it’s not endometriosis, your pain may be pointing to another problem.
Sources include: McLeod Health, Endometriosis Foundation of America, World Endometriosis Society, American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists