Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, grows in other parts of the body outside of the uterus, for instance, the ovaries, the tissues found in the pelvic region, and the bowel. The endometrial lining is normally seen to form mainly in these areas, but they can also grow beyond the pelvic area in some cases.
The endometrium is affected by the changing levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle. For example, during ovulation, the endometrium thickens to prepare the body for a possible pregnancy in the absence of which it breaks down and is shed in the form of a period.
In endometriosis, the endometrial tissues that grow in other parts of the body also react the same way to the changing level of hormones during a menstrual cycle. These tissues also grow thick and get inflamed, which causes a lot of discomfort and pain. The tissues are also shed just like the uterine cavity lining, but since these do not have anywhere to go overtime, they start collecting in the pelvic cavity, which can cause a range of problems like:
- formation of scars
- the tissue attach themselves to the organs in the pelvic area
- very painful periods
- issues with fertility
The symptoms of endometriosis range from mild to severe; however, it does not denote the exact stage someone is at. For instance, someone can have a very mild case of endometriosis but with very severe symptoms, while some might have severe endometriosis with little to no discomfort experienced.
Common Signs of Endometriosis
Common sign of endometriosis is a pain in the pelvic area along with that other symptom that includes:
- very painful periods
- pain in the pelvic region that occurs before or during periods
- menstrual cramps that last for over a week
- bleeding between periods
- bleeding heavily during periods
- problems with conceiving
- pain after having sexual intercourse
- while urinating and during bowel movements
- pain in the lower back region
Along with these, some other less common signs of endometriosis are constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, and bloating, mainly menstruating.
Endometriosis is a fairly common issue affecting about 10 percent of women that are of childbearing age. It is also seen as the main cause of infertility in 38 percent of women who find it hard to conceive. The diagnosis of endometriosis is made by various means, such as a pelvic exam, an ultrasound, a laparoscopy, and a detailed assessment of the patient’s medical history.
When it comes to treating endometriosis, there is no 100 percent cure for it; however, there are ways in which its symptoms can be managed. If left untreated, endometriosis can turn serious, which can also affect the quality of your life. There are various options available for treating endometriosis, including certain medications, hormone therapy, and last resort surgery. Below are some tips to help manage endometriosis.
Managing the pain associated with endometriosis can be easily done with the help of some apps that help in tracking periods. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy and balanced diet rich in Omega 3s, also proves to be very helpful. Other than that, daily exercising is also a must. The various ways in which the symptoms of endometriosis can be maintained are:
With the Help of Electronic Devices
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS is a device that helps in relaxing the muscles and easing the pain through vibrations. This device can be purchased for personal use, and it is also available at the doctor’s office.
One of the most common and popular methods to ease the pain that comes with endometriosis is the use of heating pads. The heat from a heating pad relaxes the muscles and helps ease the pain to a great extent. The good thing is that you do not have to buy these as these can be easily made at home as well. For example, with the help of an old sock, all you need to do is heat some uncooked rice, put it in a sock, and place it on the affected areas.
A Warm Bath
There is nothing that a nice warm bath cannot cure, right from easing tense muscles after working out to helping with the pain that comes with endometriosis. A warm bath works on the principle of relaxing and easing the tense muscles, which helps in alleviating the pain, just like a heating pad.
Most women do not take staying hydrated that seriously, especially when they are on their periods. During menstruation, a lot of women complain of feeling bloated, which can be resolved by staying hydrated. Drinking enough water also helps in relieving pain that comes with endometriosis.
Sometimes, the endometriosis is so severe that treating it with the help of heating pads and a warm bath is not enough. In that case, you need to keep certain medications on hand. Motrin and Midol are some medicines that can be purchased over the counter, helping to alleviate the pain.
When the tips mentioned above do not work, it is time to consult a doctor for some other treatment methods, including muscle injections, physical therapy, acupuncture, nerve blocking, behavioral therapy, and so forth.
Some of the treatment methods that come under hormone therapy are:
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills, vaginal rings, and patches are another method in which painful periods due to endometriosis can be managed. These help control the level of hormones that cause the endometrial lining to thicken, which helps in alleviating the pain and stops the endometriosis from developing any further.
Another method is through progesterone therapy which involves the use of intrauterine device contraceptives, certain injections along with the use of implants that work by making periods stop altogether. Cessation of periods means that the endometrial lining also stops building up, helping to relieve the pain.
In addition to the hormone mentioned above therapies, the doctor might also recommend aromatase inhibitors, which are drugs that help lower the amount of the hormone estrogen in the body. These include drugs such as Letrozole and Anastrozole.
Gn-RH or gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist are a type of drug that has been used to help treat the symptoms associated with endometriosis for a very long time. These help reduce the amount of estrogen in the body, which also causes cessation of the menstrual cycle. Gn-RH Agonist drugs come with some side effects similar to those associated with menopause with hot flashes being the most common one.
Orilissa is an FDA approved drug belonging to the Gn-RH Agonist class that helps in treating milder symptoms of endometriosis.
Surgery and Fertility Issues
Those women that are facing difficulty in getting pregnant can resort to conservative surgery, which involves the removal of endometrial tissue deposits with the help of laparoscopy. But there is no guarantee that endometriosis won’t return as it has been seen in 20 to 40 percent cases that even after surgery, the endometriosis returned after a period of 5 years. Along with the surgery, hormone therapy is also administered to help contain the growth of endometrial tissue.
Where all other options have failed to help manage the symptoms of endometriosis, a hysterectomy is the last option. Hysterectomy involves the total removal of the uterus along with the ovaries. This causes the total cessation of the menstrual cycle, and after a hysterectomy has been performed, a woman can no longer be able to get pregnant.
Endometriosis is one of the reasons why some women find it difficult to conceive. To combat that, various methods range from fertility treatments that stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs or take the help of the in-vitro fertilization method.