Did you know March is Endometriosis awareness month? Do you know Endometriosis is one of many period disorders that menstruators have to deal with? Once you are a woman, endometriosis can affect from when you start menstruating to menopause.
Unfortunately little to no light is shed on such conditions and so only a few people know what endometriosis is.
So what is endometriosis?
In each cycle of every menstruator, the lining of the uterus (endometrium) sheds and come out with other substances as Period Flow. In endometriosis, tissues similar to the endometrium grows in other parts of the body. These tissues can grow in places like the pelvic region, lining of internal organs, the peritoneum, the bladder, the urethra, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, large and small intestines, rectum. In some cases, they can be found in the lungs and diaphragm.
These endometrial-like tissues cause lesions and inflammations in the affected organs, resulting in pains and other symptoms which we would talk about later.
1 in 10 women live with endometriosis. So if you know 10 women, one of them most likely has endometriosis.
Causes of Endometriosis
To date, there is no clear cause of endometriosis. But some factors predispose women to it. These include:
Heredity: One is more likely to develop endometriosis if a family member has it, than someone who does not.
Surgical scars: During surgeries- like Caesarean sections, hysterectomy, episiotomy- endometrial cells may attach themselves to the incision sites.
Retrograde menstruation: In retrograde menstruation, menstrual flow, which contains endometrial cell, flow backward through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic region, instead of flowing out through the vagina. The endometrial cells attach themselves to pelvic walls or organs where they begin to thicken and shed with one’s menstrual cycle.
Immune and endocrine system disorders: The immune system is supposed to destroy and endometrial-like tissue in the body. A compromise in the immune system will mean these tissues will not be destroyed.
Hormonal imbalances can lead to endometriosis.
Manifestations of endometriosis
Symptoms defer from individual to individual. It may even be unnoticeable in others.
Symptoms include, but not limited to:
Dysmenorrhoea : Period related pain that affects daily quality of life.
Heavy menstrual flow
Pain during sex
Bleeding or spotting in between periods.
Pain or discomfort during bowel movement
Pain in the lower back which may occur at any time during the menstrual cycle.
Blood in stool or urine.
Abdominal pain whether you are menstruating or not.
Diagnosis of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition that may be confused with other conditions because of similar signs and symptoms. It takes about 5-10 years for one to be diagnosed of endometriosis. You can help your doctor arrive at a diagnosis by describing the pains and other symptoms you have been experiencing during your period and even times when you are not menstruating. The earlier endometriosis is diagnosed, the earlier it is managed. And the better outcomes we get in managing the symptoms.
Some tests can be done to check for clues and possible position of the endometriosis. These include:
Pelvic Examination. Manual
Laparoscopy. This test can provide information about the location, extent and size of the endometrial tissues.
Treatment of Endometriosis
There is no treatment for endometriosis. But its symptoms can be managed.
Pain management: Pain medications are taken to reduce pains related to endometriosis. It is however worthy to note that all drugs come with related side effects. Painkillers are to be taken as and when necessary.
Also, not all painkillers are good for everyone. So before you take any painkiller, consult your pharmacist or doctor.
There are a wide range of option when it comes to treatment with hormones. The aim of hormonal treatment is to suppress the offending endometrial growth and in the long run reducing pains.
Surgical management may depend on factors like age and overall health.
How to support someone who has endometriosis
Do you know and love woman with endometriosis? Does your family member battle with this debilitating condition and you want to know how to help out?
First, know that Endometriosis is an invisible condition. But it is not imaginary. That you cannot see what they are experiencing does not mean they are not. Do not discount their experiences and pains.
Educate yourself on endometriosis. Learn, unlearn and relearn. When in doubt, ask.
Believe her pain.
Just listen to her.
Ask her what she needs and help.
Above all, BE. THERE.
Dear Menstruator, always be in tune with your body. Know when things are not going right with your body and seek help immediately.