You’ve probably heard of it, but what exactly is endometriosis?
The endometrium is another word for the lining of the womb that gets shed every month as part of the menstrual flow. Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the type that grows inside the womb starts growing elsewhere in the body. The body will try to get rid of the tissue, but it can cause severe pain because it has nowhere to go.
The misplaced tissue is often found growing in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, inside the lining of the abdomen and even in the bowel or bladder.
However, the effects that it can have aren’t just physical; it can take its toll both mentally and emotionally.
What Causes Endometriosis?
The causes of endometriosis are unknown. Some issues put you at greater risk, like a history of pelvic infection or something is known as retrograde menstruation – a condition where your period blood starts going ‘backwards’ – rather than out of the vagina, it flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity. This blood contains endometrial cells, which then stick to the pelvic walls and other organs, continuing to thicken and bleed during each menstrual cycle.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The signs and symptoms of endometriosis are varied – some women might be badly affected, while others might have very few noticeable symptoms or none at all! The symptoms include pain in the lower back, stomach pain, pain or discomfort when using the toilet or during sex, constipation, nausea, extreme tiredness, frequent thrush infections and infertility.
Your Period & Endometriosis
When you’re on your period, the body instructs all endometrium tissue to start shedding. If you’ve got endometriosis, the tissue outside of the uterus doesn’t have anywhere to go (unlike period tissue, which comes out through the vagina with your flow). This leads to irregular and super heavy periods, inflammation and extreme pain in the tummy and pelvis. In some cases, it leads to scars or cysts. Using purpose made products for super heavy flows such as the Bodyform Goodnight Ultra Large Wings and the Bodyform Goodnight Ultra Extra Large Wings can help you feel protected and secure whilst you are bleeding heavily.
Another symptom of endometriosis is pain. It might be a pain in your lower tummy or back that gets worse during your period, during or after having sex, or intense period pain that stops you from doing your normal daily activities such as going to the toilet. You may even feel sick or experience constipation, diarrhoea or blood in your pee during your period. These can all be scary things to notice, but it’s just your body letting you know that something is going on that needs your attention.
How is Endometriosis Treated?
Although endometriosis is a chronic condition, there are ways to manage it. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen, are often used to manage pain. The combined contraceptive pill can help, too, by stopping eggs from being released, making periods lighter and less painful.
In terms of surgical treatments, key-hole surgery may improve symptoms and fertility (1), while some women may eventually decide to have a hysterectomy. Visit your GP to discuss the options available to you and to help manage and ease your symptoms.
Getting an Endometriosis Diagnosis
Endometriosis can come with many different symptoms and take years to diagnose – the average is 7.5. Some women with endometriosis suffer from various symptoms that can be difficult to manage and get in the way of living their lives to the fullest. That’s why for some, a diagnosis can actually be a source of relief.
The only way to fully diagnose endometriosis is through a key-hole camera investigation of your pelvic area. But before this point, you may have external and internal examinations, scans and blood tests – or a combination.
Reaching Out & Getting Support
Although women everywhere are affected by endometriosis, many aren’t getting the support they need. This is because the condition often goes undiagnosed, or when it is diagnosed, it’s misperceived as ‘really bad period pain’. As a result, women often feel like they’re being ignored and their pain isn’t being taken seriously, often leading to feelings of isolation and like you’re the only one.
But with 176 million women (one in 10) affected worldwide, you’re not alone.
Reach out to friends and family, even if it feels like an awkward subject. Talking about it will help, and you might even have people close to you with the first-hand experience of endometriosis. Not only will they know what you’re going through, but they can help you to get the support you need from your doctor.
If you recognise the symptoms and suspect that you have endometriosis, book an appointment with your doctor or gynaecologist to find out more. They’ll explore ways to ease your pain and help you cope with the symptoms.
If you’re interested in learning more about what products can help you manage your flow, check out the full Bodyform range on Superdrug.