Endometriosis is a medical condition that affects the uterus lining, causing painful periods over seven days each month. The disease usually begins with what’s called “chronic pelvic pain.” Patients are subject to extensive pain, and their periods may become more severe over time.
What Causes Endometriosis?
The causes of the disease are not entirely understood, but it’s thought to be hereditary, passed down through families. The condition also tends to affect women during the childbearing years, and there is evidence that a virus may cause it. When a woman has endometriosis, she has tissue similar to the tissue of the uterus growing in other areas of her body. Sometimes this tissue can form cysts and then burst, causing an inflammatory reaction in surrounding tissues.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
In many patients, the disease has no symptoms. Others may have symptoms that mimic other diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. Women who have endometriosis often experience some of the following symptoms:
- Pain during menstrual periods: The pain may be mild to intense, with some patients reporting pain that feels as if their uterus is being stabbed. The pain can range from a dull ache to a stabbing or burning sensation.
- Heavy bleeding during periods: Patients may experience vaginal bleeding greater than normal or longer duration, or the tissue breaking down and bleeding may last for more than 10 days during a cycle.
- Pain that can travel to other areas of the body: A woman may experience intense pain in other pelvic areas, including the lower abdomen and legs.
- Bloating: Patients may experience a feeling of fullness in the abdomen or bloating, particularly right before and during the period.
What Are the Treatments for Endometriosis?
There is currently no cure for endometriosis, though there are treatments available. Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatment may include:
- Pain medications: Pain medications are used along with hormone therapy to treat chronic pelvic pain, and some women use pain medication alone.
- Physical therapy to reduce pelvic muscle tension: This treatment is to help reposition the uterus, so it moves normally. This can be accomplished through physical therapy, which is then followed by hormone therapy.
- Hormone therapy: Menstrual endometriosis is thought to be caused by the presence of estrogen and progesterone that are present during the menstrual cycle. These are the two hormones that maintain the lining of the uterus. The goal of hormone therapy is to return estrogen and progesterone levels to normal and make sure that the ovaries work properly.
When Should You Call Your Doctor?
If you have pain that occurs during your periods, it’s important to get the condition diagnosed. This may be a primary problem, and the doctor may refer you to a specialist. If your pain is mild or doesn’t occur during your periods, you can try to take care of the problem yourself. Women who have severe pain, infertility, or other symptoms after their periods should seek treatment from a specialist. In summary, endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes potentially painful periods. Women who have this disease often experience pain with other symptoms and may be diagnosed by a doctor.