Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women. It is an incurable gynaecological disorder that in some is symptomless; in others it is painful and extremely debilitating.
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial lining, normally located inside the uterus grows outside the uterus. This can occur in the pelvis, peritoneum, ovaries, vagina, fallopian tubes, uterosacral ligaments, rectum, bladder, and intestines. The problem is that too often the disorder isn’t diagnosed, leaving women suffering pain that lasts years undiagnosed & unexplained!
Photo: Cristina Gareau
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT ENDOMETRIOSIS
The endometrium lining covers the uterus walls. It thickens during the cycle to prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy, if there is no egg fertilization during ovulation, it disintegrates and releases, this is our normal menstruations.
For women experiencing endometriosis, cells similar to endometrial lining tissue migrate and develop outside the uterus. They are called endometriosis lesions. They can form and collect in the pelvis, peritoneum, ovaries, vagina, fallopian tubes, uterosacral ligaments, rectum, bladder, and intestines.
During your period, under the influence of hormones, these fragments of mucosa will also be eliminated by bleeding, but cannot be evacuated easily like your period. This can then cause cysts in the affected areas outside the uterus, which can contribute to the pain experienced by some women.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT ENDOMETRIOSIS
The exact cause of endometriosis unfortunately isn’t known. There are several theories regarding the cause, although no one theory has been scientifically proven.
Retrograde menstrual flow is often the most likely cause of endometriosis. This happens when the menstrual blood tissue shed during the period flows back through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity instead of leaving the body through the vagina.
Genes could play a role in causing endometriosis. If your mom or sister has endometriosis, you’re more likely to get it. Research does show that it tends to get worse from one generation to the next.
The hormone oestrogen appears to promote endometriosis. Research is looking at whether some endometriosis cases are caused by a problem with the body's hormonal system. The hormones could transform cells outside the uterus into cells similar to those lining the inside of the uterus, which are known as the endometrial cells.
It is also possible for the menstrual blood tissue to leak into the pelvic cavity through a surgical scar, such as after a caesarean delivery, (a C-section) or a hysterectomy; endometrial tissue could be picked up and moved by mistake into the scar and then pass through.
Additionally it is thought that the endometrial cells may be transported out of the uterus through the lymphatic system, and a faulty immune system may fail to find and destroy endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Education is key, despite the fact that some women won’t have any endometriosis symptoms making it incredibly hard to notice and diagnose, knowing what symptoms to be aware of is the key to diagnosis and treatment.
Depending on where the endometrial tissue is and where lesions or cysts develop, the symptoms will be different. Some women who have a minor condition can have no symptoms at all. Some women may be diagnosed by chance during a medical examination or procedure.
The most common symptom is intense pelvic pain during menstrual periods. Other symptoms can also be:
Cramps 1 or 2 weeks around menstruation
Heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods
Infertility & difficulty conceiving
Pain during sexual intercourse
Discomfort with bowel movements
Lower back pain that may occur at any time during your menstrual cycle
TREATMENTS FOR ENDOMETRIOSIS
Unfortunately endometriosis doesn’t yet have a cure and it’s difficult to completely eliminate the disease. Treatments do exist to relieve symptoms or to prevent the disease from progressing to more severe stages.
At first, hormonal treatments are suggested unless trying to get pregnant. Progestogen treatments can block the menstrual cycle. Without oestrogen and periods, endometriosis lesions do not bleed and therefore no longer cause pain.
There is also an “artificial menopause cure” with injections of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and antagonists to block the production of oestrogen which stimulates the ovaries.
That can block the production of oestrogens. This allows the lesions to gradually dry out and ultimately disappear.
Conservative surgery is typically used for people who want to get pregnant or who experience severe pain and hormonal treatments are not working. The goal of conservative surgery is to remove or destroy endometrial growths without damaging the reproductive organs.
LIVING WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that’s idiopathic which means that the cause is yet to be determined and currently, it does not have a cure.
Effective treatments, such as medications, hormone therapy and surgery, can help manage the symptoms and complications like pain and fertility issues.
Period underwear is a great option for women with endometriosis. It is so much more pleasant to wear something other than a pad, and period underwear doesn’t cause pain as tampons can.
Women with endometriosis can sometimes have incredibly long periods; some can even bleed for the full 28 days. Wearing reusable period underwear versus disposable pads, when you have your period for such a long amount of time, is just a better, more economical and sustainable alternative. Feminine period underwear which looks and feels like regular underwear, can help to make the whole taboo around endometriosis far more manageable.
Rosaseven Period Underwear is made from incredibly soft, breathable natural fibres making it so much better for your body and the planet. And you’re not putting any potentially harmful chemically produced items near your super-sensitive intimate areas.
It’s important to immediately contact your doctor if you feel you might have endometriosis, to ensure an accurate diagnosis and accessing treatment based on your specific situation.
This article is intended for educational purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any condition. If you are experiencing any symptoms please seek help from a qualified healthcare professional.