An estimated 6.5 million-plus women in the United States are currently living with endometriosis symptoms. This debilitating condition can have lifelong impacts, and is most frequently detected in those in their 30s and 40s. A few key facts to keep in mind:
- It is common for some women to live with endometriosis for many years before it is detected.
- Some studies have found it can take women more than eight years on average to receive a diagnosis confirming it.
- Women suffering from the effects of endometriosis can face many challenges when seeking answers for their symptoms.
- Delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis can result in unnecessary treatments or procedures that ultimately do not provide relief.
It is important to understand the potential warning signs, risk factors, and symptoms associated with endometriosis so you can both advocate for yourself and find the right treatment options. This guide will assist you in gaining a better understanding of what endometriosis is and the treatment options available in combating this condition.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a health condition that primarily affects the female reproductive system and pelvic area. The condition causes uterine tissue — also known as the endometrium — to grow in areas outside the uterus. This tissue can become inflamed over time, resulting in growths or lesions known as “implants.” These can cause adhesions or scar tissue to surrounding areas, which can lead to pain, discomfort, and more.
Endometriosis can also contribute to or cause a number of other medical conditions or complications, many of which have dire consequences if left untreated.
Endometriosis Risk Factors
There is currently no clear cause of endometriosis, but there are a number of risk factors associated with its presentation in certain individuals. Common risk factors for development include:
Women of Childbearing Age
The disorder most commonly presents itself in women in their 30s and 40s.
Women with a family history of relatives — such as a mother or sibling — diagnosed with endometriosis have a higher risk of developing it themselves.
Lack of Pregnancy
Women who have not experienced pregnancy can have a higher risk of developing endometriosis. Lack of menstruation during pregnancy has been shown to temporarily reduce the symptoms, but the condition can still occur in women that have been pregnant or given birth.
Women who experience irregular cycles or menstrual flow may have a higher risk of developing endometriosis.
Pelvic or Abdominal Surgery
C-sections or other surgeries of the abdomen or pelvis can increase the risk of the spread of uterine tissue outside the uterus during the procedures.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Although commonly used to combat symptoms of menopause it can cause women to develop a recurrence of endometriosis during a time when the symptoms of the condition usually subside.
Endometriosis is often classified using a system of staging (Stage I-IV) to indicate the severity of the disease present within an individual and help guide treatment plans. There is no known cure, but there are ways to reduce the condition’s effect on your day-to-day life. The first step is recognizing the symptoms and receiving a diagnosis.
5 Symptoms of Endometriosis
Endometriosis can often go undetected or be confused for other medical conditions because each woman can experience it differently. Some may deal with constant and chronic pain, while others may experience cyclical pain or be asymptomatic. Learn the warning signs of endometriosis and when to seek help from a medical professional.
- Pain in the Pelvis or Abdomen
Painful cramps or pain throughout your pelvic or lower back area can be a warning sign of endometriosis. It can range from mild to severe and, in some individuals, be constant or related to certain periods of your menstrual cycle.
- Digestion Problems
Digestive irregularities such as constipation, diarrhea, intestinal blockages, bloating, or nausea are all possible signs of endometriosis. Many symptoms can also be indicative of other digestive health problems, though, which can make a diagnosis based solely on these symptoms difficult.
- Irregular Bleeding
Heavy bleeding during menstruation, or vaginal bleeding or spotting outside of menstruation, can be an indication of endometriosis.
- Discomfort or Pain During Intercourse
Many women who have lesions or scarring outside of their uterine walls experience pain or discomfort during or after sexual intercourse.
It is quite common for many women to discover they have endometriosis when trying to get pregnant. Untreated endometriosis can reduce fertility and cause infertility, depending on the extent of the condition. Although it is not impossible to get pregnant, the presence of this condition can make it more difficult.
This makes it crucial for women to be diagnosed as soon as possible so they can begin to mitigate the risks and reduce the severity of their symptoms.
What to Do If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Endometriosis
A diagnosis of endometriosis can be overwhelming, but it is a step in the right direction. It means you can better seek and receive treatment to successfully control the effects and reduce its impact on your life. There are many options available to manage and treat your endometriosis symptoms including:
- Optimizing Your Nutrition and Diet
You can often find relief for many of the body’s ailments by focusing on your overall dietary habits and consumption of nutritious foods. Healing your digestive system and introducing foods with anti-inflammatory properties can help alleviate some effects of endometriosis on your day-to-day life.
- Herbal Medicine
Addressing your specific symptoms with natural and herbal medications can provide relief from the symptoms of endometriosis, and can aid in management of pain, inflammation, and digestive problems, among others.
- Natural Supplements
A targeted approach to combating your symptoms, natural supplements can be used to aid in reducing your endometriosis symptoms.
- Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Available in various forms and methods of administration, bioidentical hormone therapy can be used for finding the right balance for your hormones. This can, in turn, reduce the impact and effects of endometriosis.
A diagnosis of endometriosis means you can take a proactive approach to treating and managing the condition. Untreated endometriosis can have lasting impacts on your life, from living with chronic pain to digestive risks and reduced fertility. The sooner you seek help, the higher your chances of reducing the effects on your body and life.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, contact Dr. Karen Threlkel today to discuss your treatment options. Dr. Threlkel is a naturopathic physician focusing on a natural approach to your overall health and management of various conditions unique to women. Give her office a call to set up an appointment today.