Are you doubling over in pain during your period? Do you have cramps you just can’t seem to shake throughout the month? For 1 in 10 women, these killer cramps are more than just your average visit from Aunt Flo, they’re a symptom of endometriosis. Although endometriosis affects 176 million women worldwide, many go undiagnosed. Here’s what you need to know about this painful disease and how to find out if endometriosis could be affecting you.
What is Endometriosis?
While it’s uncertain what the root cause of endometriosis is, doctors do know that estrogen plays a role. Research also shows that women who have a close female relative with endometriosis are 5-7 times more likely to have it themselves.
- Pain during or after sex
- Severe cramps that do not go away with NSAIDs or that impede the activities of your everyday life
- A heavy menstrual flow
- Periods that last longer than 7 days
- Nausea or vomiting
- Urinary and bowel disorders
- Difficulty getting pregnant
Not every woman will experience all of these symptoms, but approximately 30%-40% of women who have endometriosis will experience issues with fertility.
The use of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (advil, motrin) and naproxen sodium (aleve). NSAIDs can help relieve or lessen the pain caused by endometriosis by stopping the release of prostaglandins, one of the main chemicals responsible for painful periods. While NSAIDs can help manage the pain-related symptoms of endometriosis for some women, it’s not effective in every case.
Birth control methods such as the pill, the patch and the ring are often helpful to treat the pain associated with endometriosis because they reduce heavy bleeding. This method works best for women who only have severe pain during their period and not during the rest of their cycle.
Progestins are recommended for women who do not get pain relief from or who cannot take hormonal birth control that contains estrogen (such as smokers). This synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone is available by prescription as a pill or an injection.
GnRH therapy uses medicines that work by causing temporary menopause. The treatment actually causes the ovaries to stop producing estrogen, which causes the endometriosis implants to shrink.
For some women, surgery may be the best treatment method. While there isn’t a cure for endometriosis yet, it is possible to remove some of the the scar tissue and lesions with surgery.
If you have endometriosis, surgery could be an option if you:
- Have severe pain
- Have tried medications, but still have pain
- Have a growth or mass in the pelvic area that needs to be examined
- Are having trouble getting pregnant and endometriosis might be the cause
If you have endometriosis or believe you could have endometriosis, we strongly encourage you to speak with your doctor or one of our highly trained providers. We want you to know that at Women’s Care, we’re devoted to you and your health. We’re here to meet both your physical and your emotional needs each step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.