6 Signs You Might Have Endometriosis
Stabbing pain during sex. Really bad periods. A constant, low-level ache. You might have been told that these are just part of having a uterus and a menstrual cycle and that it will pass. You might have even been told that your pain is psychosomatic or that you should just “drink a glass of wine to relax.”
But if you’ve been suffering from unexplained pain related to your cycle for a while, you know that wine just isn’t going to cut it. What you might not know yet is that it’s possible you have endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects an estimated 10% of people who menstruate. It’s caused by tissue resembling the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus (the endometrium) growing outside of the uterus, sometimes including on the organs around it.
Despite its prevalence, endometriosis is often misdiagnosed or dismissed, and it takes an average of seven to 10 years for most people to receive a diagnosis. This delay in diagnosis can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, causing them to suffer from chronic pain and discomfort for years before receiving appropriate treatment.
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis
Sometimes people finally get to a diagnosis through their own research, oftentimes after being told by doctors for years that there was nothing that could be done. But if you’re suffering, you know that something is wrong. Here are some signs that what you’re going through might be endometriosis.
- Painful periods
While lots of people have uncomfortable periods, people with endometriosis often report more extreme pain or pain that is spread more widely throughout the body. If you experience pain, cramping, bloating, or nausea throughout the lower abdomen, back, or legs, it could be a sign of endometriosis. Some people may also experience heavy periods or spotting between periods.
- Pain during sex
Pain during sex, or dyspareunia, is another common symptom of endometriosis. This pain can be felt deep in the pelvis and may worsen with certain positions or deep penetration. It may also be accompanied by bleeding or spotting after sex.
- Chronic pelvic pain
Endometriosis can cause chronic pelvic pain that may occur at any time during your menstrual cycle, not just during your period. This pain may be felt as a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain and may be accompanied by fatigue, nausea, or bowel or bladder problems. Some people may also experience pain during bowel movements or urination.
Endometriosis can cause scarring and adhesions in the pelvic area, which can make it difficult to conceive. If you have been trying to conceive for a year or more without success, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider about the possibility of endometriosis. Some people with endo may also have difficulty carrying a pregnancy to term.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
Some people with endometriosis may experience GI symptoms, such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. These symptoms may worsen during your period or during bowel movements. Endometriosis can also cause inflammation or damage to the bowel or bladder.
Endometriosis can cause fatigue or exhaustion due to the pain and discomfort it causes. This may impact your ability to work, exercise, or participate in daily activities.
It's important to remember that each person with endometriosis may experience symptoms differently. Some people may have mild symptoms, while others may have severe pain and discomfort. So while there might be similarities, no two people will have the same experience with endometriosis symptoms.
What should I do if I think I have endometriosis?
So, what should you do if you think you have endometriosis? Here are some steps you can take:
- Talk to your healthcare provider: If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of endometriosis, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can evaluate your symptoms, recommend tests or procedures to diagnose the condition, and work with you to create a plan on how to move forward. They may recommend an ultrasound, MRI, or laparoscopy to diagnose the condition.
Worried about communicating your pain to your doctor or another clinician? The Pelvic Pain Assessment was designed so you can help your healthcare provider help you!
- Find a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about endometriosis: If you suspect that you have endometriosis, it's important to find a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about the condition. They can work with you to create a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. Check out these resources for finding an experienced practitioner.
- Explore treatment options: There are a range of treatment options available for endometriosis, including pain medications, hormone therapy, and surgery. Your healthcare provider can help you decide which treatment is right for you.
- Practice self-care: In addition to medical treatment, there are also lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your symptoms. These may include maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.
- Seek support: Endometriosis can be a challenging condition to live with, but you are not alone. Support groups and online communities can be a valuable resource for people with endometriosis. Talking to others who have experienced similar symptoms can help you feel less alone and provide you with tips and advice on managing your condition.
Remember, if you’re experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of endometriosis, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider and advocate for yourself. With the right treatment and support, you can manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.