Having a painful period is a normal part of life for many women. But did you ever think that maybe the pain you are feeling isn't normal? Endometriosis is a common problem in many women, however it is often under diagnosed, which makes figuring out how many women world-wide suffer from endometriosis difficult. A conservative estimate suggests that 90 million women throughout the world suffer from endometriosis, but many believe the actual figure is much higher.
Yet, a study on the problem showed that, on average, it takes nine years before doctors diagnose a woman with endometriosis. This is because the symptoms of endometriosis are so similar to a regular menstrual period that the signs are overlooked. Knowing just how to discuss the issue of endometriosis with your doctor can often help you get a proper diagnosis sooner.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis, or endo, occurs when the uterine lining (the endometrium) is found outside of the uterus. The misplaced tissue results in lesions that act in much the same fashion as the endometrium located in the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, misplaced tissue thickens and then sheds as it would in the uterus. However, because the blood has no way of leaving the body, it causes internal bleeding and inflammation. This leads to pain, scar tissue, bowel problems and infertility.
The most common locations for misplaced tissue to occur include the ovaries, bowel, and bladder. Although it is not as frequent, endo tissue can end up further away from the pelvic region. There have been several reports over the years of women who have had thoracic endometriosis; that is endo that affects the chest. While it is not always easy to diagnose, common pulmonary endometriosis symptoms include chest pains and tightness that are associated with a woman's period as well as a persistent cough.
Why Does It Happen?
Endometriosis can occur at any age to any girl or woman during her menstruating years. Unfortunately, experts have not yet been able to isolate one particular cause of endometrioses. While there are various theories floating around, most agree that excess estrogen in the body can make the condition worse.
There is strong evidence to suggest that endometriosis may be genetic. Women who have a family history of the problem are more likely to have it, as are their daughters. Other experts believe that endometriosis is actually part of a larger immunological disorder. This is based on the fact that women with endo have a higher likelihood of developing other problems including lupus, allergies, and an under active thyroiditis (hypothyroidism) or over active thyroiditis (hyperthyroidism). One of the more convincing theories, and a possible explanation as to why endo is occurring more frequently and at a younger age, is that endometriosis is related to environmental toxins, in particular dioxin.
Dioxin is a toxic byproduct of chlorine and incinerated products that contain chlorine. A ten-year study done on a group of monkey's examined how exposure to dioxin affected their reproductive system. It was found that 79% of the monkeys developed endometriosis after exposure to dioxin. The monkeys that had had the most exposure to dioxin also had the most severe cases of endometriosis.
To avoid dioxins, it is recommended that you eat uncontaminated fish and organic meat and vegetables; use unbleached tampons, pads, toilet paper, napkins and paper towels; and use non-toxic household cleaners.
Being able to distinguish between normal period pain and pain caused by endometriosis is not easy. Since abdominal or pelvic pain are the most common signs of endometriosis, it is normal for a woman to assume that the extreme pain she is experiencing is simply due to her period. However, if you find that the pain you experience with your period is growing increasingly worse, is so severe that regular over-the-counter medications fail to ease the pain and you miss school or work when you have your period, then you should discuss the issue with your doctor.
Typical symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful periods
- Pain during ovulation
- Painful bowel movements or urination during period
- Pain during or after sex
- Lower back pain
- Stomach bloating
- Heavy or irregular bleeding
- Increased premenstrual symptoms
Some women may not experience any symptoms of endometriosis. It is only when they have troubles conceiving that they learn of the problem.
For women dealing with infertility and endometriosis, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the fertility tunnel. If you have gone through your own struggle with endometriosis, then write about it at Pregnancy Stories. By posting your infertility story, you can offer hope and inspiration to other couples.