Killer cramps are not normal. Periods that last longer than 7 days are not normal. Heavy bleeding that soaks through a tampon every 2 hours is not normal; pain during sex is not normal. Bouts of diarrhea and vomiting that accompany every menstrual cycle are not normal. No, no, and no! For many women, this reality is just endometriosis at work.
Sad truth:Many of us are taught to downplay these symptoms. Our pain is diminished by mothers, sisters, friends and even health care professionals who convince us that everyone goes through this.
Maybe that is why, according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, it takes 10 years, on average, to receive an accurate endometriosis diagnosis. That’s a decade, people! That’s 130 periods of agony, 912 days of someone asking you to take Advil and suck it up. That is not okay.
Endometriosis is pervasive. It affects 1 in 10 females of reproductive age and an estimated 176 million women worldwide. It occurs when tissue similar to the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is found outside the uterus in other parts of the body.
There are lots of symptoms that can vary among patients. Pelvic pain is most common, as well as pain that coincides with menstruation. Other symptoms include heavy cramps, long-lasting bleeding, nausea or vomiting, pain during sex and, unfortunately, infertility.
Some women may even experience symptoms throughout their entire cycle.
In addition to these physical symptoms, endometriosis takes a toll on women’s personal and professional lives. Chronic pain can severely affect the quality of life day-to-day; medical care can be extremely costly. Furthermore, absenteeism can alter relationships in the workplace and at home.
Despite the intense discomfort, many women do not realize they have endometriosis until they try to get pregnant. And because the disease tends to get progressively worse over time, approximately 30-40% of women who have endometriosis experience fertility challenges.
There is no simple diagnostic test for endometriosis, no blood, urine, or saliva testing can confirm the condition. The only way to verify endometriosis is to undergo a diagnostic laparoscopy with pathology confirmation of biopsy specimens.
On the bright side, many endometriosis symptoms including infertility can be addressed after diagnosis. The gold standard for endometriosis treatment is laparoscopic excision surgery. This involves a careful removal of the entire endometrial lesion from wherever it grows.
The first step to getting there is recognizing that your pain is not normal and seeking timely intervention. The earlier endometriosis is detected and treated, the better the results. Tracking your symptoms will make you better informed for your next doctor’s visit, and set you on a path to better (and less painful!) menstrual health.
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