Endometriosis affects more than 5 million women in North America. The disease is caused by endometrial cells, or cells of the uterus, which grow abnormally in inappropriate areas of the body. The tissue acts just like the normal uterus: it pours its lining every month. Depending on the location of the abnormal tissue, this can cause massive scarring and healing throughout the body.
Endometrial tissue is commonly found in the reproductive organs, as well as outside the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It can spread to other internal organs such as the intestines and the bladder. If the tissue affects the lymphatic system, it can grow through the entire body.
The only definitive test to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis is by laparoscopy. Treatment of endometriosis includes hormonal medications such as birth control, analgesics and surgery.
Here are common symptoms of endometriosis. If you suspect you have endometriosis, contact your doctor as the long-term effects can be devastating.
- Painful menstruation
One of the most common symptoms of endometriosis is painful menstruation. This pain can start one week before ovulation and continue until one week after the end of menstruation. It can be a constant discomfort, or it can cause colic. The pain they cause can radiate and come in waves. Pain medications purchased at any pharmacy are a good treatment option for painful menstruation. There are special medications specifically made for menstrual cramps that may include a mild muscle relaxant.
- Excessive bleeding during menstruation
A dangerous symptom of endometriosis is excessive bleeding during menstruation. Menstruation can also last more than 7 days. Excessive bleeding can cause low iron levels. This can lead to fatigue, hair loss and anemia. For women who experience heavy or long menstrual periods, certain iron supplements or intravenous iron injections may be needed. Taking contraceptives can regularly help women with endometriosis. Continuous use of contraceptives without interruption can reduce the number of periods, which can eliminate this symptom in its entirety.
- Back pain
Back pain in endometriosis can be caused by a variety of conditions. Before, during and immediately after menstruation, back pain can be a very painful symptom. This can be generated because the uterus contracts and cramps occur. Back pain can also be caused because scar tissue forms around the internal organs after damage from endometriosis. While the damage is internal, the pain can radiate to the back or chest. A warm and relaxing bath can help relax the tense muscles of the back. Along with medications for pain, this symptom can be controlled with the help of your doctor.
- Painful sexual intercourse
As endometriosis damages the reproductive organs, sexual intercourse can become very painful. The act of penetration can push against the scar tissue and thus damage the muscles. Going slowly and with open communication can help penetrative sex not generate pain. The woman’s body can also become tense, not allowing penetration if there has been any pain during sexual intercourse in the past. Talk to your doctor about treatment options.
A devastating symptom of endometriosis is infertility. It is estimated that more than 30% of women who suffer from endometriosis will be unable to become pregnant. This is caused because scar tissue damages the ovaries and walls of the uterus. Getting pregnant is not the only problem. Bringing a child to term can also be difficult. Some studies have shown that women with endometriosis are more likely to miscarry. This can be caused by hormonal imbalance or by scar formation. Some studies have found a link between the body’s immune response and abortion, leading to the hypothesis that the body may not recognize the embryo in the same way it does with healthy women.
- Pain when urinating
A symptom of endometriosis is pain when urinating. The entire urinary tract can be affected, including the bladder, kidneys and urethra. Painful urination may be caused by the implantation of endometrial tissue into any of these organs. It can also be affected by the tissue that rubs from the implants in other organs, such as the uterus. Other symptoms of the bladder include blood in the urine, pain in the kidneys, urgent urge to urinate, frequent urination and inability to urinate.