From economic implications to mental health, quality of life, and body autonomy, endometriosis affects the very core of who people are.
According to the Yale Medicine Fertile Center, endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and up to half of women who are infertile. Even though endometriosis and the growth that comes with it are not benign, the problems that arise from it can be incredibly debilitating and affect a woman’s quality of life. According to the WHO, “In many countries, the general public and most front-line healthcare providers are not aware that distressing and life-altering pelvic pain is not normal, leading to a normalization and stigmatization of symptoms and significant diagnostic delay.”
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful and debilitating disorder. It occurs when the tissue inside a uterus (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. In some rare cases, tissue can also grow around the bladder, intestines, cervix, and vagina/vulva. The misplaced tissue causes issues for the reproductive system, including ovaries, fallopian tubes, ligaments around the uterus, and pelvis tissue. Causing pain, infertility, trouble getting pregnant, heavy periods, and in some cases, no symptoms.
Endometrial tissue does not shed during a menstrual cycle. The tissue buildup has nowhere to go, leading to inflammation, scarring, and cysts. In some cases, the fibrous tissue can cause reproductive organs to stick to one another.
The symptoms of endometriosis can range from pelvic pain to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other inflammatory diseases. Additionally, you might experience the symptoms below:
- Painful periods that come with nausea, constipation, or diarrhea
- Pain during sex
- Pain while urinating and/or bowel movements
- Excessive heavy menstrual periods
- Bleeding/spotting between periods
It is important to note that just having pain in your uterus doesn’t indicate that you have this condition, as such pains are commonly confused with IBS or ovarian cysts.
Anyone who menstruates can be affected by endometriosis, with certain factors lowering and raising the risk. Several factors can put you or your loved ones at even greater risk of developing this condition, such as:
- Starting periods at an early age
- Short cycles
- Heavy periods that last more than 7 days
- Higher estrogen levels
- Family history
- Never having a pregnancy
- Retrograde menstruation
Treatments for endometriosis can involve medication, Laparoscopy and surgery. The approach you and your doctor decide to take depends entirely on the severity of your symptoms, your specific condition, and if you want to have children. Additionally, people can choose to follow these recommendations:
- Pain medications that are available over the counter (OTC) such as Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen or with a prescription (Rx)
- Hormone therapy, such as contraceptives or hormone releases, can help stop endometriosis growth
- Fertility treatment
- Warm baths and heating pads
You don’t have to deal with endometriosis or the severe consequences that come with it alone. There is an array of resources out there that can give you the support, validity, and relationships you need from people in the same boat.
- Join a support group or talk to someone
- Mayo Clinic
- Yale Medicine Fertility Center
- NIH website list
Join Abarca in bringing awareness and resources to those affected by endometriosis. If you or a loved one suffers from this condition, please visit The Endometriosis Association to learn more and explore available support services.
*This blog was written by Juan Vilaro, Senior Analyst of Rebate Services at Abarca Health.