Endometriosis affects between eight and nine million women and girls of reproductive age in the United States. It’s a painful, chronic condition that researchers don’t fully understand. The symptoms can vary, but one tends to be consistent and that is pain.
When a patient comes to her office and describes painful periods, Dr. Parisa Pourzand evaluates you to identify potential causes, and in many cases, it’s endometriosis. Understanding the cause of your pain and getting appropriate treatment can be life-changing.
Some women with endometriosis don’t realize that they have a treatable condition, and since the symptoms of endometriosis can vary, it may be difficult to identify. March is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Month — EndoMarch. Let’s learn more about the five most common symptoms of endometriosis.
Most women have menstrual cramps; however, if you have endometriosis, those cramps are more likely to be intense and debilitating — and they don’t go away when you take over-the-counter medications. The pain may start several days before your period.
You may also have pain during intercourse, when urinating, or during bowel movements. Some women experience pain when they ovulate, as well.
During your menstrual period, you may have heavier bleeding than normal. For doctors, heavy menstrual bleeding means soaking through a pad or tampon in two hours or less, or passing clots the size of a quarter or larger and lasting four to five days or longer.
In addition to disrupting your life and being uncomfortable, heavy bleeding can cause anemia, which means that you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body. You may feel tired and weak.
When you have endometriosis, the lining of your uterus, your endometrium, grows in places it shouldn’t be outside of your uterus. Normally, during your menstrual period, your body sheds the endometrium, but when it’s outside your uterus, there’s no way for it to exit your body. It can cause inflammation and over time scarring, called lesions.
In some women, this tissue grows on the bladder or bowels. The inflammation and lesions caused by the endometrium can lead to pressed nerves, cysts, and other painful problems.
Gastrointestinal distress such as bloating and gas, or diarrhea and constipation are relatively common in women with endometriosis. You may also develop a condition called painful bladder syndrome.
The swelling and scar tissue caused by endometriosis can damage your nerves, and cause a condition called neuropathy. You may experience a condition called sciatica, which is when the large nerve that runs from the base of your spine down the backs of your legs, the sciatic nerve, is irritated.
As you might expect, scar tissue on your pelvic organs, inflammation, and the other symptoms of endometriosis are not conducive to pregnancy. Some conservative treatments may make it possible for you to become pregnant, but infertility — not becoming pregnant after having unprotected sex for six months to one year, depending on your age — is quite common in women with endometriosis.
If you have any of the symptoms of endometriosis, schedule an appointment with Dr. Pourzand. Managing your symptoms can make an enormous difference in your day-to-day life!