The lesser-known Endometriosis ironically affects 25 million women in India. The symptoms include excruciating pain and extreme fatigue during the periods accompanied by nausea and heavy bleeding. In India, the condition is rarely spoken about. Many women get diagnosed after years of suffering from the unbearable pain resulting from the condition. Here is what you need to know about it.
What actually happens in Endometriosis?
It happens when endometrial cells which are supposed to line the uterus grow in a location outside of the uterus. Every month, the female body releases an egg or an ovum. In preparation for fertilization, the uterus is lined with tissue of cells called endometrium. This endometrium is then shed by the body as menstrual blood. But when endometrium starts to grow abnormally outside the uterus, such as around the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, bowel, vagina or rectum, it becomes endometriosis.
It is classified into four categories namely minimal mild, moderate and severe, based on how far the disease has already and the extent of blockage of the fallopian tubes. However, the categories do not depend on the amount of pain. Someone in minimal stage might experience excruciating pain while someone else with a severe stage may experience No pain at all.
What are the symptoms?
The pain gets extreme during the periods but not all women suffering from the condition experience pain. Other symptoms include heavy bleeding during periods, pain during sex, pain while urinating or having bowel movements. Some women can also experience fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and nausea.
Endometriosis can sometimes lead to infertility but not always. Some women affected with the condition have had no trouble getting pregnant. There is a misconception that endo causes miscarriage but there is no evidence to support that claim. You are also at higher risk of endometriosis if someone in your family is affected by it.
What about the diagnosis?
What makes this worse is that it is difficult to detect. Some women who suffer from endometriosis do not experience any pain, others often mistake it for menstrual cramps. Women often suffer for many years before getting diagnosed with the disease. Endometriosis is difficult to confirm by MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound. The only way to identify the disease is to do a laparoscopy (surgery to examine organs) and biopsy of tissue. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure in which a thin tube with a light is inserted into the abdomen through a minute incision in the belly button.
Is there any cure?
There is no cure for endometriosis. However, the painful symptoms subside during the pregnancy and breastfeeding because progesterone, the hormone that supports a healthy pregnancy suppresses the hormone estrogen, which causes the growth of endometrial tissue.
With no definitive cure, laparoscopy is sometimes suggested to remove scarred tissues. Over the counter pain medications are used to provide relief. Birth control and other hormonal drugs can regulate hormone levels and ease discomfort but these are not without side effects.
How to manage the symptoms?
Aside from medication, warm baths and heatings pads cab reduce the discomfort. Staying hydrated would also help. Regular exercise can also alleviate symptoms.