Endometriosis affects over 5 million women in North America. The disease is caused by the endometrial cells, or the cells of the uterus, abnormally growing in inappropriate areas of the body. The tissue acts just like the normal uterus, shedding the lining every month. Depending on the location of the abnormal tissue, this can cause massive scarring and bleeding through the body.
Endometrial tissue is commonly found in the reproductive organs, such as on the outside of the uterus, the fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. It can spread to other internal organs, such as the intestines and bladder. If the tissue affects the lymphatic system, it can grow across the entire body. The only definitive test to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis is through laparoscopy and treatment includes hormonal medications like birth control, pain killers, and surgery.
Let’s take a closer look at 15 of the most common symptoms of endometriosis…
1. Painful Menstruation
One of the most common symptoms of endometriosis is painful menstruation. This pain can start one week before ovulation and continue until one week after the end of menstruation. The pain may be a constant discomfort, or it can cause cramping. This cramping pain may radiate and come in waves. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this pain occurs when the endometrial tissue bleeds and has no where to exit the body which causes inflammation and pain. Over the counter pain medication is a good treatment option for painful menstruation. There are specialty medications specifically made for menstruation pain that include a mild muscle relaxant. In more severe cases, women can develop blood-filled cysts called endometriomas, explains SELF. If these cysts rupture in the body, they’ll cause extreme pain and heavy bleeding.
However some women can suffer from endometriosis and only experience a very mild level of pain so they’ll never seek help and might not realize they suffer from this condition for a long time. Self points out that this is one of the reasons this condition is so under-diagnosed. Also, many women just associate their period with bad cramps, so they don’t know how to differentiate when something more is wrong. “There are some who either suppress or don’t articulate their symptoms because they don’t want to admit they have a problem until it really interferes with their life,” says Tamer Seckin, M.D., an NYC-based gynaecologist when talking to SELF.