In 2015, the World Endometriosis Society estimated that 176 million women worldwide are living with the pain and complications of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that should only be located in the lining of the uterus is found elsewhere in the body, causing a variety of symptoms ranging from uncomfortable to debilitating.
The condition affects an estimated 10 percent of all women during their reproductive years, across all ethnic and social backgrounds. Many additional cases fail to be properly identified and diagnosed, and are therefore not treated or counted.
The pain and discomfort often correlates to the menstrual cycle, but a woman with endometriosis may also experience pain and symptoms that don’t align with her cycle at all, making this condition even more frustrating and unpredictable. For many women, the pain of endometriosis is severe enough that it significantly impacts the quality of their lives. Moderate discomfort around your monthly menstrual cycle is typically nothing to be concerned about, but see your gynecologist or family physician if you experience one or more of these symptoms:
• Significant pain before and/or during periods
• Pain with intercourse
• Painful urination or bowel movements during periods
• Other chronic gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea
“Most women with early and mild symptoms of endometriosis can be treated medically. Based on the severity of one’s symptoms, our initial goal is to manage the patient without surgery,” said Dr. Lynda Thomas-Mabine, gynecologist, Chestnut Hill Hospital. “For women who do not respond to conservative therapies, an outpatient procedure called laparoscopy may be needed to confirm and surgically remove the endometriosis.”
There is little medical consensus regarding the causes of endometriosis, but it is typically diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35. A woman is more likely to develop endometriosis if she started her period at a young age, has never had children, or has frequent periods that last seven or more days. A woman or girl whose mother has had endometriosis is seven times more likely to have the disease.
In a study investigating the link between diet and endometriosis, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have observed that women whose diets are rich in Omega-3 oils may be less likely to develop endometriosis, while those whose diets are high in sugars and trans fats might be more likely to develop the condition. As with the management of any chronic condition, it’s important to follow the tenets of a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, and low in processed foods.
The good news is, there are several treatment paths available once endometriosis has been effectively diagnosed and assessed, including hormone therapies, pain management, laparoscopy and varying levels of surgical options.
“Many women with endometriosis suffer for years in silence, before increasing pain or infertility forces them to finally seek help from a physician,”. Thomas-Mabine said. “It’s estimated that 30-40 percent of women with this condition struggle to conceive children. If conceiving is important to you, it’s critical that you address your condition early, taking steps to relieve pain and slow the progression of the disease.”
For more information about endometriosis and other associated gynecological disorders, schedule an appointment with a physician who can help you understand your options. If you do not have a dedicated gynecologist or primary care physician, visit www.chestnuthillhealth.com, or call 215-753-2000 to find a physician.