Women’s Health: Endometriosis is more than just painful periods

Women with endometriosis often find themselves with unbearable period pain. They complain of deliberating cramps, bloating, and even mood swings. But, at the same time, women might show mild or no symptoms at all, which makes endometriosis a very tricky condition to diagnose.  

Endometriosis is a disease that causes lining – similar to lining within the uterus – to grow in other places in the body. In normal condition, the tissue is normally found inside the uterus. 

But, in women with endometriosis, that lining grows outside the uterus. And as hormones change during the menstrual cycle, this tissue breaks down, leading to pain, inflammation, swelling and scarring.

In addition to these symptoms, endometriosis can also lead to infertility in many women who suffer from it. 

There is no known cause for this condition and the only way to find out is through a medical diagnosis. 

Endometriosis is more common than you think

Endometriosis is more common than you think, affecting millions of women across the globe. In Australia, more than 830,000 women suffer from endometriosis at some point in their lifetime, often starting at a younger age.

Painful periods are a very common endometriosis symptom 

Most women suffer cramps during their periods, but women with endometriosis often suffer from debilitating pain.

This is because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body, causing severe pain while in menstruation, pain during or after sex as well painful bowel movements or pain while passing urine.  

What are the other health problems endometriosis can cause?

Apart from pain, endometriosis can cause many other health issues. 

Some women suffer from pelvic pain even when they don’t have their periods. The pain may become worse and chronic over time. They can also form scars or adhesions that may cause pelvic pain and make it hard for you to get pregnant.

Another hallmark of endometriosis is endometriomas, a type of ovarian cysts. These cysts can become large and painful, and requires to be removed medically. 

Infertility is also one of the common health issues in women with endometriosis. About 10% of women with endometriosis are also living with infertility. This happens because the scar tissues can cause damage to the fallopian tubes required by women to conceive naturally. 

Endometriosis or fibroid

Endometriosis and fibroids, which are noncancerous growths of the muscle tissue, both cause pains during menstruation. Both can cause severe cramps and heavier bleeding during a period with flare up at other times of the month.

But it is only your doctor who can diagnose which one you’re suffering from. 

How likely am I to have endometriosis?

Women who have a mother, sister or daughter with this condition are at a greater risk to suffer from one themselves. This is likely because the inherited genes make you more susceptible to the disease. In fact, you’re 7 times more likely to suffer from one than a woman who has no first-degree relatives with endometriosis.  

Women whose period started at an early age, before age 11 and women with short monthly cycles (less than 27 days) have a higher risk of endometriosis. 

When to see a doctor?

Since endometriosis can be tricky, you will need to describe the details of your symptoms, especially about pain, their occurrence while in a period or in other times. Only a GP can guide you when and how to diagnose and treat endometriosis. 

See a doctor when; 

  • You suffer from severe and regular pelvic pain during or after sexual intercourse 
  • Sudden pain that worsens during a particular time of the day or night 
  • Period pain that doesn’t respond well to painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines 
  • Heavy bleeding accompanied by pelvic pain

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