Every March, we honor Endometriosis Awareness Month by providing extra education and answers to your questions about endometriosis and the impact it has on women who suffer from it.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a medical condition that affects women. It occurs when endometrium, tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus, begins to grow outside of the uterus where tissue should not be. The invasive tissue can attach to internal organs such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, and can even spread to impact digestive organs such as the bowel and intestines.
Endometriosis can cause painful inflammation and changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility. It is a common, yet often underdiagnosed condition, affecting an estimated 200 million women worldwide. It is most commonly seen in women of child-bearing age.
While not all women will experience symptoms, common symptoms of endometriosis may include:
· Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
· Pelvic pain in between periods (non-menstrual pelvic pain)
· Pain during sex (dyspareunia)
· Fertility struggles
· Bleeding or spotting between periods
· Heavy menstrual bleeding
· Long periods lasting more than one week
· Vomiting during your period
· Pain during bowel movements
· Pain during urination
· Pain in the abdomen, groin, or lower back
· Excessive pain, exhaustion, or feeling of physical weakness that keeps you from normal daily activities
What causes endometriosis?
At this time, there is no known cause for endometriosis. Possible causes are still being researched by medical professionals.
While we do not yet know a cause, we do have an understanding of certain factors that may increase a woman’s risk of developing this condition. Risk factors include:
· Genetics—endometriosis commonly appears to run in the family and there may be potential to inherit genes that make you more susceptible to this disease.
· Hormones—estrogen levels appear to impact or even promote the development of endometriosis.
· Surgery—it is possible for endometrial tissue to be relocated to an unwanted location during surgery in the abdomen, such as hysterectomy or C-section.
· Weakened immune system—a weakened immune system does not function properly and therefore may not locate and attack or destroy endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus.
How can I prevent endometriosis?
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent endometriosis.
Some women may be worried about developing this condition due to risk factors they may exhibit. Here’s what we tell those women: Live a healthy lifestyle which encourages lower estrogen levels.
· Exercise regularly. Exercising more than 4 hours per week will help keep your body fat percentage low and can therefore help decrease the amount of estrogen circulating throughout your body.
· Avoid excessive alcohol use. Alcohol raises estrogen levels, so it is recommended to limit alcohol consumption to no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
· Avoid excessive caffeine consumption. Studies have indicated that drinking large amounts of caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or soda, can raise levels of estrogen.
Maintaining controlled estrogen levels can be beneficial in decreasing chances of developing endometriosis since estrogen is the hormone that helps to thicken the lining of the uterus.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, you should be evaluated by a physician who specializes in the reproductive system of women.
Your doctor will speak with you about your symptoms and may perform exams or tests to help aid in an accurate diagnosis, including:
- Physical examination of your abdomen, which may include a pelvic exam
- Sonograph of your uterus and reproductive organs
- Laparoscopy, which is a type of surgery that doctors do to confirm endometriosis
Can I get pregnant if I have endometriosis?
Yes, but it may be much more difficult for you to become pregnant. It is not uncommon for women suffering from endometriosis to also struggle with infertility.
How is endometriosis treated?
Every woman and every case of endometriosis is unique. Therefore, her treatment must be customized to meet her specific needs. After diagnosis, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Treatment usually involves medication, surgery, or both.
The physicians at Affinity Health have decades of experience in diagnosing and treating endometriosis. They also have access to innovations in endometriosis treatment options through clinical research studies. This means our patients are often able to find relief from the symptoms of this disease using advanced medical treatment before it’s available to the general public.
Since endometriosis can affect every woman differently, accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment with a skilled physician is critical to the success of managing this disease. And at Affinity Health, we believe every woman deserves comfort, healing, and relief so that she can live her happiest and healthiest life. That’s why we have committed to the betterment of healthcare through research.
If you suspect you, a friend, or a family member may be suffering from endometriosis, please contact Affinity Health. We are here to help!