Before we get into the logistics of why endometriosis is a bummer deal, I'm going to explain what it is. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the tissue that normally lines a woman's uterus grows outside of the uterus. Commonly the tissue is found in the bowels, ovaries, and near the pelvis. Though the tissue is most commonly contained in the pelvic region, but that is not a guarantee. There have been instances where it has branched out. Gotta love the exceptions to the rule.
There is always fear when your body is not working like you know it should. Like all the science books say it should. I am hoping that although this article is going to explore the fears associated with it, it may also alleviate fears. After all isn't the unknown scariest of all? Let's dive in:
15 Displaced Tissue Still Bleeds Monthly
This is an important thing to understand because it's part of the reason there is discomfort (or extreme pain--whatevs.) The tissue that has attached to your bowels, ovaries or pelvic region doesn't realize it has strayed from it's home (or so it would have us believe.) Therefore, it reacts the same way as it would if it was in your uterus. Namely the tissue thickens, breaks down and then bleeds. Where can the tissue go since it's normal route isn't an option from this star on the map? How does the body expel it when it's binding to a totally different area? Well, I'm glad you asked. It's trapped. There is no place for this tissue to exit the body which causes the pain and uncomfortable cycles. This pain is at it's worst during your period. The tissue left in there can cause quite a ruckus while it remains far from it's home.
Fertility problems can develop from endometriosis. Even if you are not in a place where you want to kick out a kid or two, this is always a very concerning thing to hear. Endometriosis is one of the common causes for infertility. BabyCenter goes on to describe possible treatments. Good news being that 30 percent of women conceive naturally within three years after having laproscopic surgery. This surgery removes endometrial tissue from areas it doesn't belong. The next treatment on the roster are fertility drugs and artificial insemination. These treatments result in a 9 to 15 percent chance of conceiving each treatment cycle. The last option of IVF ranges from 2 to 42 percent each treatment cycle depending on the age of the patient. Obviously in the fertility game typically the younger you are, the better your eggs are going to be.
13 Hereditary Link
If you have one or more relatives with endometriosis your chances go up of having it yourself. Commonly those relatives you want to check with to see if you are at risk are your mom, aunts, and sisters. If they have it, and you seem to have some of the symptoms you are going to want to look into it. The more fearful thing is that it could be something that you pass onto your daughters. The good news is that you will be able to likely pick up on their symptoms and help them to get early treatment to hopefully lower the amount of pain they have to deal with overall. The bad news is that you cannot pawn this one off as something that they get from their dad.
12 Ovarian Cancer
Yikes. You aren't going to like this, but it's something you have to know in order to take care of yourself. If you have endometriosis you will have a higher than normal chance of developing ovarian cancer in the future. There is good news though. I wouldn't leave you hanging with fear. Ovarian cancer risk overall is really, really low. So even though endometriosis increases that risk, it's still low. That is good to know. There is another type of cancer that you may not have heard of called endometriosis-associated adenocarcinoma that can develop in a endometriosis patient. Though this risk is also low and the cancer rare, knowing that you have a higher risk and getting the necessary screenings will ensure that your chances are even lower. You may think that since the risks are so low that you can skip your checks or ignore that symptom...you can't. Someone has to have gotten it for there to even be a low risk.
When cases are severe, a hysterectomy might be required to treat the symptoms (for example, the pain and discomfort is too much to bare.) A total hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus, cervix and both ovaries. The ovaries produce estrogen which is what fires up endometriosis to start up it's cycles. The hysterectomy is a last resort, end of the road treatment. After a hysterectomy pregnancy is not an option. Make sure if this is something suggested to you and you are still in your reproductive years - ask for a second opinion. That is of course unless you are done having or not wanting children to begin with. In that case, this might be an excellent option to look into if it provides relief.
10 Hormone Therapy
Many treatments related to endometriosis involve hormones. This can help the body to slow the growth of the endometrial tissue which in turn results in less pain. As you will remember the endometrial tissue will thicken, breakdown and bleed in relation to your cycles. Beginning a hormone treatment such as birth control can stop the body from going through it's normal processes. Thus resulting in the tissue not breaking down. Here is the fear part. Messing with hormones is a scary thing. Hormones regulate moods, cravings, and so much of our lives. I'm sure I don't have to tell you, as most of us have been on a wrong birth control pill or a wrong hormonal contraceptive. Not only did it strike fear into us, but into our partners as well. Following up and finding the correct balance is key when pursuing this treatment. Keep open communication with your doctor.
9 Endometrial Growths
The growths that form in areas they don't belong can cause many problems. Like we have already established, there is the pain. Another thing that can happen is the growths can block off your fallopian tubes. WTH endometriosis? You suck so you have to make sure no on else can get out of the body too? That's just selfish. Anyways yes, that happens. When that happens and the blood is blocked, the ovaries cysts can happen. That should be on a t-shirt, "Cyst happens." Cysts can be painful too and can be at risk of bursting. Also, the endometrial growths can cause scar tissue and adhesions. That means these growths can end up binding organs together. That doesn't sound good. No one wants organs bound together when they aren't meant to be.
8 Immune System Problems
If you have immune system problems it seems more likely that you will have endometriosis. Immune system problems or more commonly referred to as autoimmune diseases are things that cause your body to fight itself and ignore other problems going on in the body. The theory is that your faulty immune system is too busy screwing around with fighting it's own white blood cells to notice that it's letting your endometrial tissue grow all up in your pelvis. Endometrial tissue is all "I do what I want!" and your faulty immune systems is all "I'm too tired to deal with you right now." Thus failing to destroy and regulate the things outside of the uterus. This seems plausible and may explain why other people don't have this problem. Maybe instead of running around looking for shiny things or resting, their immune system is breaking down that misbehaving tissue.
7 Not Preventable
There is no way to prevent yourself or someone you love from getting endometriosis. There is a possibility of adjusting hormone levels or lowering estrogen levels to avoid the thickening of the endometrial tissues and thus not allowing the symptoms to show if they are there. There are some natural ways to reduce estrogen and they include exercising regularly. Apparently having a lower percentage of body fat keeps your body from having high estrogen levels since fat produces estrogen. The lower amount of fat you have the lower amount of estrogen you will have circulating through your body. Avoiding large amounts of alcohol is another way to not be estrogen heavy. Large amounts of caffeine and coffee can also make you a little more estrogen rich. Finally, as we have mentioned previously hormonal birth control can help to lower or balance out the estrogen in your body.
6 Doesn't Go Away Until Menopause
This may not be as bad as it seems. At least there is an end in sight. Apparently once you hit menopause you will see a relief in your symptoms. This makes sense since there will not be the signals from your body to cycle through. The caveat to this information is if you are put on some sort of hormone replacement therapy. In that case if you are placed on anything with estrogen you may find that your symptoms continue. This is something to question your doctor about to see if the symptoms the hormone replacement addresses are more important to treat then the endometriosis symptoms. It's all in what you find yourself more bothered by. Again constant communications with your doctor over the state of your pain levels and discomfort are in order. There is an end to this. Yay!
5 Allergies Linked
There are quite a few things linked to endometriosis. I mentioned above that some autoimmune diseases seem to be linked. In addition to that, allergies seem to be something that goes hand and hand with it. Asthma might be likely to make an appearance in someone that has endometriosis. Also, chemical sensitivities are something that is common in women that have endometriosis. The reasoning with this seems to be the same. Your body is ignoring things that it should be doing in favor of chasing squirrels. Chronic fatigue syndrome seems to be something dealt with by sufferers of this condition. That makes sense if your body is going haywire that there is a lot of fatigue, especially if the environment is causing allergic reactions consistently, that serves to wear you down even faster.
4 Irregular Bleeding
You may experience irregular bleeding which is extremely scary. There are a few ways this can happen. You can experience irregular periods. Heavier months or bleeding. Sometimes cycles are not happening at regular intervals. Also, there could be clots. You could find that you are occasionally bleeding much longer than normal or bleeding before you are due to. As if things are sucky enough - how about some surprises? Also, bleeding from your bladder or bowels can sometimes occur with this condition. If the endometrial tissue has attached to parts of the bladder or bowel there may be blood from that tissue released. It sounds all very icky, I know. You should without a doubt track any of these irregular symptoms and report to your doctor without delay.
3 Symptoms Worsen
As you age you may notice that the symptoms get worse. Ages 30 to 40 is when endometriosis is most commonly diagnosed in patients. Some women initially find that the pain occurs just before their period. At that point everyone thinks - well sure, that's normal. Then eventually as time wears on, women find that their pain begins mid cycle and doesn't let up until the cycle is over. If you do the math on that, it means you are having two weeks a month of pain free/symptom free life. That is over half your life suffering. You don't deserve to have to deal with that. When this becomes something that affects your quality of life it is beyond time to have a talk with your doctor.
2 Laparoscopy Is Only Way to Diagnose
Surgery has come a long way and nowadays they don't have to cut you all the way open to take a looksy around and find where all the problem spots are. They now have those handy dandy thin scopes that allow them to make small slits to look around in your belly. This is really the only way to diagnose it. Before doing that there are often other tests performed. Ultrasound to see if there is any visual on the tissue. Ultrasounds generally are not reliable for finding the actual endometrial tissue, but they can spot cysts that are caused by a build up or back up of the endometrial tissue. When that is spotted typically the next step will be laparoscopy. The good thing about laparoscopy is that if there are parts of the tissue spotted, the surgeon can easily remove it right then during the scan to diagnose. Thus only requiring one procedure to diagnose and remove.
1 Affects Day to Day
The biggest fear is that something you don't understand can affect and change your day to day life for the worse. That is something that endometriosis can and does do for many women. Not only that, some women find that their doctors are not listening to their symptoms. Since endometriosis can start as cramps, maybe the doctor dismisses the pain you are feeling as just that. Eventually you stop mentioning what you are feeling as you start to question yourself. Is this how everyone feels and I'm just not dealing with it well enough? Am I really weak? Then the other shoe drops and your life becomes affected more and more by the pain. It's no longer five days of pain a month, it's moved to two weeks. It's moved to needing a heating pad for five nights straight to sleep. It's trying to get your partner to understand that it's painful. That it's not just "normal" woman problems. It's tempting to give up trying to get help for it since you can't be taken seriously. This is when it is more important than ever to be your own advocate. Make them listen to you. You are not weak. You deserve to have a day to day life that isn't affected by this.