Chronic pelvic pain during menstruation is not normal. If you experience debilitating pelvic pain when you menstruate that affects your lifestyle, you may have endometriosis. Most women experience discomfort just before and during their periods, but when that pain causes you to miss work, it’s time to see a doctor.
When patches of unshed endometrial lining grow outside the uterus, the body is unable to rid itself of it, and endometriosis occurs. This process can lead to endometrial growths, inflammation, cysts and severe chronic pain.
Endometriosis affects one in every 10 women. While not cancerous, the condition is painful.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Most women experience a series of symptoms:
- Chronic pelvic pain, especially pronounced before and throughout the menstrual cycle
- Heavy periods
- Extreme mood swings
- Lowered immune defenses (frequent colds or bladder infections)
- Pain during or after having sex, which usually leads to a decreased sexual desire
- Lower back pain and intestinal upset (such as diarrhea, constipation or painful bowel movements) during periods
- Difficulty getting pregnant, which occurs in an estimated 30 percent of women. However, infertility is often treated successfully.
Research shows that women who have endometriosis also usually have other immune disorders:
While it is unclear what causes endometriosis, it is believed to be genetic, so a woman who has a family history of endometriosis is at a higher risk of diagnoses. There is no cure for endometriosis, but it can be effectively treated.
Factors such as your age, symptoms, if you are considering having children in the future, and your family history guide treatment options for endometriosis. There are three principal treatment options:
- pain relievers
- hormone therapy and
Many women find some relief using over-the-counter pain relievers for mild pain, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin). If your pain is more severe, you should let your well woman care provider know so that a stronger pain reliever can be prescribed.
With hormone treatment, the goal is to slow or cease the production of hormones that aggravate endometriosis. Research has shown hormone therapy to be very effective in relieving endometriosis pain. There are several hormone therapy options:
- Progestins such as Depo-Provera (a progesterin shot) and the Mirena IUD
- GnRH Agonists and Antagonists
- Birth Control Pills
When endometriosis seriously impacts women’s lives— inability to conceive or having extreme pain— surgery is an option. Endometrial growths can be removed via laparoscopy surgery. For women having difficulty conceiving, the surgery can assist fertility.
For women with severe endometriosis and who no longer wish to bear children, a complete hysterectomy is an option, which is major surgery that carries other symptoms akin to menopause.
If you have symptoms of endometriosis, contact our staff at All About Women MD to schedule an endometriosis screening. Our well woman care providers can assess your treatment options with you.
A pelvic exam is oftentimes a first step in diagnosing endometriosis.
Regardless of where you are in the process of dealing with endometriosis, All About Women MD is here for you through every step.