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. Treatment of endometriosis include hormonal medications like birth control, pain killers, and surgery.
Here are 11 common symptoms of endometriosis. If you believe you may have endometriosis, contact your doctor as the long term effects can be devastating.
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. The cramping pain may radiate and come in waves. 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.
2. Excessive Bleeding During Menstruation
One dangerous symptom of endometriosis is excessive bleeding during menstruation. Menstruation may also last for longer than 7 days. Excessive bleeding can cause low levels of iron. This can lead to fatigue, hair loss, and anemia. For women who experience heavy or long menstruation, iron supplements or iron intravenous injections may be necessary. Taking birth control regularly can help women with endometriosis. Continuous use of birth control without breaks can reduce the number of periods, which can remove this symptom in entirety.
3. Back Pain
Back pain for endometriosis can be caused by a variety of conditions. Before, during, and immediately after menstruation, back pain may be a painful symptom. This can be caused by the uterus contracting and cramping. Back pain may also be caused by scar tissue that forms around the internal organs after endometriosis damage. While the damage is internal, the pain may radiate to the back or chest. A warm, relaxing bath can help relax tense back muscles. Along with pain medication, this symptom can be controlled with the help of your doctor.
4. Painful Penetrative Sex
As endometriosis damages the reproductive organs, sexual intercourse may become very painful. The act of penetration can push against scar tissue, damaging the muscles. Going slowly with open communication can help when achieving penetrative sex. A woman’s body may also tense up, not allowing for penetration if there has been pain during sex in the past. Speak to your doctor about your treatment options.
One devastating symptom of endometriosis is infertility. It is estimated that over 30% of women suffering from endometriosis will be unable to get pregnant. This is caused by scar tissue damaging the ovaries and the walls of the womb. Getting pregnant is not the only problem. Carrying a child to term may also be difficult. Some studies have shown that women with endometriosis have a higher change of miscarriage. This can be caused by hormonal imbalance and scar formations. Some studies have found a link between the body’s immune response and miscarriage, leading to the hypothesis that the body may not recognize the embryo unlike it does with healthy women.
6. Painful Urination
A symptom of endometriosis is painful urination. The entire urinary tract my become affected, including the bladder, kidneys, and urethra. Painful urination can be caused by the endometrial tissue implanting along any of these organs. It can also be affected by the tissue rubbing from implants on other organs, such as the uterus. Other bladdar symptoms include bloody urine, pain in the kidneys, urgent need for urination, frequent urination, and the inability to urinate.
7. Painful Bowel Movements
Issues affecting the entire gastro-intestinal tract are common with women suffering from endometriosis. This can start simply with painful bowel movements, but can affect other areas as well. These symptoms are commonly caused by the endometrial tissue rubbing the intestines from implants on the back of the uterus. The tissue can also attach itself to the bowels themselves, causing scarring. Other gastro-intestinal symptoms include bloating, bowel pain, cramping, and bloody bowel movements. If you experience blood in the water or stool after a bowel movement, contact your doctor. Bowel obstructions are a possible corresponding condition, as the tissue may implant on the inside of the intestines.
8. Feeling Of Insides Being Pulled Down
In later stages of endometriosis, one possible symptom is the feeling of the internal and reproductive organs being pulled down. As the endometrial tissue adheres to the organs, the resulting scar tissues may fuse multiple organs together. As more scarring takes place, the organs may be unable to shift freely within the body. This may result in the feeling of the organs being pulled down to the pelvic bone. The only treatment for this advanced scarring is surgery to separate the organs. Correlated symptoms to this feeling include bladder and bowel issues and painful sexual penetration.
As a woman’s body reacts to the disease, fatigue may become a symptom. The implanted tissues and scarring can be taxing to the body, as it struggles to preform its regular functions. The endometrial tissues can also create hormonal imbalances. Many women experience this fatigue around their monthly menstruation. Fatigue may be one of the most underreported symptoms of endometriosis as it can be related to other illnesses or forgotten about. Chronic fatigue is not something you should have to battle with every day. If you suffer from chronic fatigue, talk to your doctor about the possible causes and treatment options.
10. Inability To Exercise
Pelvic pain is a symptom of endometriosis. The foreign tissue and scarring can bind organs together, causing pulling and tearing with certain movements. Pelvic pain can be caused by exercises involving the abdominal muscles. The pain can also be caused by running, walking, and even from standing for too long. In rare cases, endometrial cells can find there way into the lungs. This can cause bloody coughing and shortness of breath. This may feel like asthma, causing an inability to exercise. Hip and leg pain are also possible is the sciatic nerve is affected by nodules.
11. Constipation or Diarrhea
Women who are affected by endometriosis have a higher risk for IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience regular bouts of constipation or diarrhea, make a food journal to analyse your symptoms. If the bowel issues are related to specific food consumption, you may have IBS. The symptoms of IBS and endometriosis are similar and people may be misdiagnosed with one or the other. As the endometrial tissue can cause inflammation as it affects the large intestine, both illnesses can affect the same person.
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