Each March, Endometriosis Awareness Month takes place across the globe, aiming to create awareness of this debilitating disease affecting an estimated 176 million women of reproductive age worldwide.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder of the reproductive system, whereby endometrial tissue lining the uterus migrates to other areas of the body, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic structures and supporting tissues. The displaced tissue continues to act as it would if it were lining the uterus, thickening and then breaking down before shedding with each menstrual cycle. Because the problematic tissue is outside the uterus, the resulting bloodshed has nowhere to go. It becomes trapped and results in pain throughout the pelvic region. As time goes by, scar tissue and adhesions develop. This causes pelvic tissue and the surrounding pelvic organs to adhere to one another, further exacerbating the disease.
What are the most common symptoms of endometriosis?
While some patients with endometriosis experience no symptoms, the primary symptom of endometriosis is that of pelvic pain. Other symptoms may include:
• Painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea).
• Lower back and abdominal pain.
• Bloating, including during menstrual periods as well as at other times during the month.
• Pain during or following intercourse.
• Painful bowel movements or urination, especially during one’s menstrual period.
• Heavy menstrual periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between menstrual periods (metrorrhagia).
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
There are a number of tests your doctor may perform. First, he or she may listen to the description of your physical symptoms, then perform a pelvic exam to locate cysts, nodules, or scars on your uterus. An ultrasound or MRI may identify some characteristics common with endometriosis (nodules or cysts). Ultimately, a small surgical procedure, called a laparoscopy, may be performed. This allows your doctor to look inside your pelvic region, confirming the diagnosis of endometriosis.
How is endometriosis treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, treatment is available to help alleviate symptoms. This includes birth control pills or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists to subdue monthly hormone fluctuations in estrogen. It can also include surgery to remove tissue and lesions.
How can you support Endometriosis Awareness Month?
To raise awareness for endometriosis, educate others, share your stories, and fundraise to help support research and future awareness campaigns. You can also use social media to get the word out about endometriosis awareness events in your area. When using social media, include hashtags such as #endometriosis, #endometriosisawareness, #endometriosisawarenessmonth, and #endowarrior.
Where and how to learn more about endometriosis?
Disclaimer: The content provided above is not intended for, nor should it be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice. It should not replace a conversation you have directly with your medical team regarding endometriosis.