7 FAQ’s about Endometriosis

With over 200 million menstruators impacted by endometriosis worldwide, endometriosis is a lot more common than we think. So much is unknown and misunderstood about this chronic disease even within the medical industry. Some doctors dismiss endometriosis as a “real” disease, or just don’t know enough about it to be able to properly detect and diagnose it. Some people wait up to ten years to be accurately diagnosed with endometriosis! Padma Laksmi, co-founder of Endometriosis Foundation of America was only diagnosed at 36-years-old, but experienced symptoms since her 20s.

We hope this blog post clarifies some of the most commonly asked questions about endometriosis. If you think you may have endometriosis or if someone comes to mind while reading this, please visit a medical professional.

What is endometriosis?

Simply put, it’s a chronic (lifelong) disease impacting people who have a uterus. Endometriosis occurs when tissue which is similar to the uterus lining (endometrium) grows in other parts of the body too and not only the uterus. The pelvic area is where this tissue ends up the most, specifically on the ovaries, bowels, outside of the uterus and the spaces between the bladder, uterus and vagina. It’s also been found by the lungs, diaphragm and rectum.

Because this tissue is not supposed to grow anywhere else in the body besides in the uterus, the area where it’s found becomes inflamed and the pain can be severely debilitating. This endometrial-like tissue builds up and breaks down as a reaction to the hormonal fluctuations each month just like the endometrium would. However, because this tissue exists outside of the uterus it has nowhere to exit the body and can become trapped.

What are the causes?

There’s still no exact cause of endometriosis. However there are several factors which can contribute to it, such as:

Retrograde menstruation – When menstrual blood that contains endometrial cells flows backward into the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of leaving the body. The endometrial cells then stick to the pelvic walls and the organs which causes endometriosis.

Immune system disorder – If there’s an issue with the immune system the body might not be able to recognise and destroy any endometrial-like cells growing outside of the uterus.

Surgical scar implantation – Surgeries like a C-section or hysterectomy can sometimes result in endometrial-like cells attaching to the incision after surgery.

It’s hereditary – If you have one or more relatives with endometriosis it could increase your risk of developing it too.

Why is the pain so extreme in many cases?

The pain can vary significantly from person to person. Some people might only have pain when on their period, while others might experience it more consistently. Endometriosis can be extremely painful because as mentioned earlier, the endometrial-like tissue that causes endometriosis responds to monthly hormonal fluctuations as the uterine lining normally would. So, because this tissue is growing on parts of the body when it breaks down each month it becomes trapped inside. Unlike the endometrium which gets expelled through the vagina via menstruation, this tissue has nowhere to be expelled. This results in the tissue bleeding internally, and the body reacts with inflammation which causes adhesions which causes the pain.

What are the risk factors for endometriosis?

If it’s already within your family your chances of being diagnosed with endometriosis is high. If you’re infertile, have a short cycle of 27 days or less, or if your period is very heavy and lasts more than seven days.

What are the treatment options?

Hormonal treatment – This is to lower the amount of estrogen in your body which stops menstruation from taking place. This means less inflammation, scarring and cyst formation because the lesions bleed less.

Surgery – This is to remove as much of the affected tissue as possible and could make the symptoms less severe.

Pain medication – This is used to alleviate the severe pain that can sometimes come with endometriosis. If the pain medication doesn’t work then other treatments are an option.

What are the symptoms?

Dysmenorrhea which is the term for extremely severe period pain is a common symptom. Other symptoms include bleeding between periods, infertility, unusually heavy bleeding during menstruation and excessive pain with bowel movements and urination while menstruating.

What are the steps I can take if I suspect I may have endometriosis?

Firstly, DON’T PANIC! If you think you may have endometriosis, and are experiencing the symptoms the best thing to do would be to book an appointment at a doctor as soon as possible.