Here's What Endometriosis Feels Like, Say Physicians
Endometriosis is a condition that affects women in their childbearing years that can cause infertility and extreme abdominal pain. It can be challenging to diagnose because you can't see Endometriosis in a Pap smear and ultrasounds oftentimes don't catch the signs, so it goes untreated causing significant discomfort. Laparoscopy, a surgical procedure where tissue samples are collected, is the most accurate way to diagnose. "Endometriosis is a surprisingly common condition that may affect up to 10% of women during their reproductive years. Under normal circumstances, the endometrial (or inner) lining of the uterus sheds during a period, which is accompanied by bleeding. Women with endometriosis have endometrial-like tissue outside of their uterus that also bleeds during menstruation. This bleeding can lead to severe pelvic pain, discomfort, inflammation, and eventual scarring," Julia Walker, a registered nurse with Paloma Health tells Eat This, Not That! Health. To learn more about the condition and what it feels like, read below to find out what experts we talked to had to say and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Negative Health Effects of Endometriosis
Walker states, "Endometriosis has some pretty detrimental effects on women who have it. Infertility is one of the biggest concerns many women have when it comes to this condition. However, it can severely decrease the quality of life in women who have it and also may cause depression, anxiety, and fatigue because of the pain that can accompany it. It is not uncommon for women to miss school or work because of it, and can even interfere with their social and sexual health as well. Regrettably, there is no way to prevent endometriosis, but there are ways to diminish its effects on a woman's quality of life and her physical, mental, and emotional health."
Who is at Risk for Endometriosis?
According to Walker, "Any woman can develop endometriosis, however, your risk is greater if your mother, sister, or daughter has the disease. Also, women who have an abnormal uterus or those who give birth for the first time after age 30 may be at an increased risk of endometriosis."
How Patients with Endometriosis Describe the Pain
"Pain is the biggest complaint women with endometriosis experience," Walker says. "The type of pain can vary from stabbing, sharp pain to gnawing or throbbing. Some women feel that their pelvis is heavy and may even experience a "drawing" sensation in their thighs. The pain can start in the days leading up to a period and may last through the period. It can be felt outside of the pelvis as well including the back and abdomen."
Signs of Endometriosis
Dr. Gerardo Bustillo, MD, OB/GYN and medical director of Minimally Invasive Surgery at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA says the following are typical symptoms.
- "The classic symptoms include painful menstruation, pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and/or infertility
- Other symptoms may be present, including bowel or bladder symptoms.
- One symptom or a combination may be present
- Women may also be completely without symptoms, and the diagnosis is made at the time of surgery for another reason, or is suggested."
Dr. Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and Women's Health Expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA states, "Painful abdominal bloating is a horrifying symptom of endometriosis. Endometrial implants can be scattered throughout the bowels causing them to function abnormally creating uncomfortable bloating."
Painful Bowel or Urinary Issues
"Endometrial implants produce scarring and inflammation throughout the pelvis, bladder and bowels on nerves and ligaments," says Dr. Ross. "If these implants develop on certain areas of the bladder or bowel, they can cause painful urination and bowel movements."
Pain in Lower Extremities
Dr. Ross explains, "If endometrial implants grow on nerves and ligaments that support the lower extremities, pain can occur. This is a very rare symptom associated with endometriosis but it can be extremely disruptive."
According to Dr. Ross, "Endometriosis is important to be aware of since it is a progressive disease causing scar tissue on the fallopian tubes. Endometrial implants that create scar tissue cause infertility by blocking the ability of the egg and sperm to fertilize naturally. 40 % of women with infertility have endometriosis."
"Less commonly, endometrial implants can appear in the chest cavity," says Dr. Ross. "These implants can appear on ligaments, nerve which can lead to chest pain especially around your period. Coughing blood is another very rare symptom caused by endometrial implants in the chest area."
Treatment for Endometriosis
Walker says, "Treatment of endometriosis usually depends on the severity. If it is relatively mild or in the early stages, your doctor may recommend you just watch for any worsening. However, most women with endometriosis go to their doctor because they have pain, so pain management is an important treatment option for most women. Oral contraceptives are also useful to reduce menstrual bleeding. When endometriosis is more severe, women may take medication that puts them in a temporary "medical menopause" or they may need to have surgery to remove some of the tissue that bleeds outside of the uterus."
Main Cause of Endometriosis
"While we don't fully know why endometriosis happens, it is thought that it may occur when some menstrual tissue goes through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis as opposed to through the cervix and out the vagina," Walker explains.