Endometriosis is a reproductive disorder affecting 2-10% of American women. It can cause pain and discomfort in the reproductive organs, and is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
Endometriosis, or endo, occurs when the endometrial tissue that normally lines the walls of the uterus begins to form on the outside of the uterine cavity. Your normal menstrual cycle flushes this tissue out each month, but not in the case of endometriosis because it is growing outside of the uterus. It becomes stuck where it develops, and it can cause irritation to the surrounding tissue that can lead to scarring, lesions, fibrous tissue, and/or cysts to develop.
Symptoms of endo are similar to those of normal menstruation, but are typically more painful and/or severe. Some of the symptoms of endo include but are not limited to:
- Pelvic pain
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Pain or discomfort during sex
- Pain in the lower abdomen and/or intestines
- Painful bowel movements or urination
- Heavy periods
- Spotting or bleeding between menstrual cycles
- Gastrointestinal or digestive disruption
- Fatigue or lack of energy
There are a number of ways to treat endometriosis that may vary depending on your condition. These include:
- Pain medication – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Hormonal contraceptives – to prevent or reduce menstrual flow
- Progestin therapy – to halt the menstrual cycle and/or stop the growth of endometrial tissue
- Aromatase inhibitors – reduces the amount of estrogen in your body
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone – blocks the production of estrogen, preventing menstruation
- Danazol – a synthetic form of testosterone
- Laparoscopy – minor surgical procedure to remove endometrial growths
- Laparotomy – extensive surgery to remove endometrial tissue
- Hysterectomy – a surgery to remove the uterus and/or ovaries
Your best options for treatment will vary greatly depending on your age, the severity of your case, and your goals for parenting. Be sure to consult with your doctor to figure out the best path for treatment, and know that there are plenty of options available to you.