Did you know endometriosis affects approximately 10 percent of women? While there is no genetic connection, women with a first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with endometriosis have an increased risk of developing the condition.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
The most telltale symptom is constant pain appearing about one week prior to a woman’s period. The pain worsens during her period, and lessens during the week after. Pain can be felt in the abdomen, lower back, rectal area or legs. With this type of ongoing pain—up to three weeks out of every month—endometriosis can be physically and psychologically debilitating. Other symptoms include painful sex and painful or urgent urination. Endometriosis can cause heavy periods, but it does not alter the menstrual cycle or cause irregular periods.
Currently, there is no diagnostic test that can reveal endometriosis. Based on medical history and symptoms, physicians may suspect it and treat symptoms accordingly.
Typically, the first line of defense is treating the symptoms. Medications that lessen or eliminate a woman’s period will help decrease the pain caused by endometriosis. These medications include birth control pills, intrauterine devices and Lupron. Lupron causes temporary menopause. Women do not have periods while on Lupron and but they can experience menopause symptoms, like hot flashes and mood changes.
If medical treatment is insufficient, there are several surgical options for treating endometriosis. Surgical removal of all the diseased tissue can provide pain relief for up to 10 years for women with stage 1, stage 2 or early stage 3 endometriosis. For women in late stage 3 or stage 4, surgery can provide three to five pain-free years. Because it usually disappears when a woman reaches her mid-30s, very few patients require follow-up surgeries.
A complete hysterectomy is rarely necessary to treat endometriosis.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of endometriosis, talk to your doctor. Though it can be a daunting foe, specialized treatments can now help women fight and overcome the pain of endometriosis.