What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue similar to endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus (womb), causing scar tissue and/or adhesions in the pelvic region including the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Over 70% of people with chronic pelvic pain have endometriosis and it is one of the most common pelvic diseases.
Even though this tissue is outside of where it belongs, it continues to behave as it would if it was in your uterus, so with your menstrual cycle this endometrial tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds.
Since this blood has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis affects your ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. In your pelvic area, the surrounding tissue becomes irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and bands of fibrous tissue that can cause areas of your pelvic and organs to stick together.
Recordings and research go as far back as the 1700s with descriptions of “chocolate cysts” in the female reproductive system, and in the 1930s saw the discovery of the rare cases when endometriosis is found in other parts of the body including the lungs, bowels, colon, rectum, bladder, lymph nodes, and cervix.
Despite the fact that we’ve known about endometriosis for centuries, it is still a commonly misdiagnosed condition with many people waiting up to 10 years for their official diagnosis.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Endometriosis?
One of the most common symptoms of endometriosis is chronic pelvic pain. Although it’s normal to have some cramping and discomfort during your period, pain that causes you to miss out on work, school, or social activities isn’t normal.
In addition to chronic pelvic pain, signs and symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Mild to severe pain in your back, abdomen, and pelvis during menstrual periods
- Pain with sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Painful bowel movements and/or urination
- Heavy bleeding during menstrual periods
- Nausea, fatigue, depression, and anxiety
- Fertility complications such as increased difficulty in getting pregnant
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
The current standard of care when it comes to an endometriosis diagnosis is a laparoscopic surgery (also known as keyhole surgery) where a small incision is made your abdomen where a small telescope is inserted so that your doctor can look for adhesions and then potentially remove them.
Some people with endometriosis don’t have any symptoms at all and are only diagnosed if abnormal tissue is discovered during a routine procedure or surgery.
How is Endometriosis Treated?
Treatment for endometriosis is a personalized plan that includes medications and surgery. Currently there is no cure for endometriosis. Only a certified medical professional can figure out the right course of action for you.
When it comes to managing and treating chronic pelvic pain, a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist (PFPT) can provide hands on treatment to help manage your pain and reduce pelvic floor tightness (hypertonicity) which can help with your pelvic pain, back pain, painful urination, and painful bowel movements.
The tightening of these muscles can also lead to painful intercourse, which a PFPT has a range of in-clinic and at-home techniques including vaginal dilators to massage, relax, and breakdown scar tissue and relieve pain.
Where Can I Get More Information About Endometriosis?
If you are currently dealing with, or suspect you have endometriosis, you are not alone. There are a variety of organizations you can join or check out to get more information, share your story, connect with others, and get support:
- Nancy’s Nook
- The Endometriosis Network Canada
- Endometriosis Association
- Endometriosis Foundation of America
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Here at Hyivy Health, we’re dedicated to helping you down there and everywhere. The purpose of this blog post is to offer resources and education about pelvic health and is not intended to serve as medical advice. The information provided above is not a substitute for the treatment, advice, or opinion of a medical professional. Always consult with a certified health professional before starting any treatments.