March is Endometriosis Awareness month – a good time to learn more about a disease that affects nearly 176 million women worldwide.
What is Endometriosis?
Especially common among women in their 30s and 40s, endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus grows on ovaries, bowel, rectum, bladder, or pelvic area. These cells tend to grow and bleed as your hormones fluctuate, which is why symptoms may become worse during menstruation.
Symptoms caused by the overgrown tissue include:
- Painful periods
- Pain the lower belly, pelvis, or low back
- Cramps for several weeks
- Pain caused by sexual intercourse or bowel movements
It may be harder for a woman with endometriosis to get pregnant, but it does not mean she is guaranteed to be infertile. It is estimated that 30-40% of women with this disease have problems becoming pregnant.
Who is At Risk for Developing Endometriosis?
You may be more likely to develop endometriosis if you:
- Have a first-degree relative with endometriosis
- Started your period at a young age
- Never had children
- Have frequent periods or they last more than 7 days
- Have an immune system dysfunction
What are the Treatments Options for Endometriosis?
The onset of endometriosis typically occurs during a woman’s menstruating years but usually isn’t diagnosed until ages 25 to 35.
While there is no cure for endometriosis, there are several treatments to help relieve symptoms and prevent the endometriosis from getting worse. The best treatment for you will depend on several factors and is something you should discuss with your doctor.
If pain interferes with your daily life, it is a good idea to discuss the following treatment options with your doctor to help relieve your symptoms:
- Pain relievers. To manage pain and cramping, over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription painkillers, and relaxation techniques may help.
- Hormone therapy. Birth control pills, progesterone pills or injections, and other medications can stop endometriosis from worsening, but will prevent you from getting pregnant.
- Surgery. Undergoing surgery is the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis, and it is usually removed at the same time.
If you experience a significant change in pain or other endometriosis symptoms, schedule an appointment with your OBGYN.