Endometriosis: The Silent Disease Attacking Women
Endometriosis is a chronic illness that is quite common, but is often overlooked by medical professionals and goes undiagnosed for years for thousands of women around the world. According to the United States Office on Women’s Health, “[Endometriosis] may affect more than 11% of American women between 15 and 44.”
Endometriosis is commonly associated with heavy menstrual flows, clotting, severe cramping, and nausea, among many other symptoms. The World Health Organization defines the illness as, “..a disease characterized by the presence of tissue resembling endometrium (the lining of the uterus) outside the uterus. It causes a chronic inflammatory reaction that may result in the formation of scar tissue (adhesions, fibrosis) within the pelvis and other parts of the body.”
This illness often goes undiagnosed, even after many consults with medical professionals who state that “it is only a heavy period” or “your symptoms will go away with menopause”. Many women that have had severe symptoms from the time of their very first menstrual cycle wonder: why must we suffer?
Many women have severe symptoms only during or around their menstrual cycle, including heavy flows, cramping, clotting, and nausea/headaches. Even though the symptoms may seem obvious, they are pushed aside, along with the thought of even having endometriosis. Most do not know of the disease because they think that they just got dealt a bad hand in the case of their period or doctors have told them otherwise.
In order to find out if you have endometriosis, it is very important to regularly attend your gynecology appointments, and to consult with your ob/gyn if you are having irregular cycles or severe stomach pains. In many cases, your doctor will recommend an ultrasound to see if there are any visible abnormalities or cysts on or around the uterus.
If your doctor finds cysts, you may either be monitored to watch its growth and assess the pain levels, or you might be recommended to have an invasive procedure called a laparoscopy. During a laparoscopy, tools and cameras are inserted into the abdominal area through ports in your lower stomach to get a closer look at any cysts, adhesions, or spots of endometriosis, as well as to diagnose if one does indeed have the illness.
Unfortunately, endometriosis can spread from the uterine area to other parts of the body, including the bladder, bowel, and, in some cases, the spine and upper body organs. Another downside of the disease, aside from the fact that it causes severe discomfort for most women, is that it can also affect one’s fertility if untreated for too long.
In order to cope and somewhat feel relief from the pain of endometriosis, many do have laparoscopic surgery to remove cysts and adhesions, and IUDs and birth control are often prescribed to keep the pain at bay for a period of time. Aside from prescription relief, gluten-free and plant-based diets are often helpful in lessening the pain and bloating they receive from triggering foods such as bread and red meat.
Although a cure for endometriosis seems hopeless to most women, one can only hope that awareness for this disease will become more widespread, and that doctors will learn more about it.
Ladies: please stay up-to-date on appointments with your ob/gyn and make sure to report any abnormalities you may notice within your menstrual cycle because you might have endometriosis without even knowing it.