It's common for women to experience cramping and discomfort that comes with a menstrual cycle, but when it's more than "normal," it may be time to consult your OBGYN!
Endometriosis is a medical condition that involves the tissue that normally grows in the uterus taking residence outside of this area. With endometriosis, bits of the uterine lining (endometrium) — or similar endometrial-like tissue — grow outside of the uterus on other pelvic organs, including the ovaries. (www.MayoClinic.org)
When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions — bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other. (www.MayoClinic.org). It is suggested that when this out-of-place tissue bleeds, it irritates the nearby areas, which leads to various degrees of pain, sometimes severe.
Diagnosis can be challenging because the symptoms are nonspecific, systemic, and associated with other disorders, according to Hugh S. Taylor, MD (Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences- Yale School of Medicine). Many women suffer for years as symptoms are dismissed as "normal" period-like. These symptoms may appear as issues with bowel and bladder, anxiety, and depression, in addition to abnormalities with the menstrual cycles.
1. Severe, debilitating abdominal cramps- preventing regular activity
2. Pelvic pain, usually worse during a period- with no or minimal relief
3. Long and heavy periods - more than seven days
4. Pain/cramping during or after sexual intercourse
5. Painful bowel movements or urination during menstruation
There are varying stages of endometriosis ranging from 1 to 4, depending on the severity of symptoms. Treatment includes medical and surgical interventions ranging from over-the-counter medication to surgery. Laparoscopic excision is a standard treatment, and many women require multiple procedures due to the re-occurrence of scar tissue. In severe cases, a hysterectomy may be considered.
Endometriosis can have emotional and physical effects. Left untreated, it can lead to infertility. Early diagnosis and intervention are imperative to support reproductive health. If you think you may have endometriosis, seek a medical professional’s care.