Endometriosis Awareness Week, an annual observance, occurs the first week in March each year. The condition affects 6.5 million, or one in 10, women between the ages of 15 and 44. Because endometriosis can cause painful periods, painful sex, pelvic pain, and infertility, awareness and understanding are important.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) occurs when tissue that’s similar to the uterine lining – the endometrium – grows in areas outside of your uterus. The tissue thickens, breaks down and bleeds like it would during your period. But because it can’t leave your body and remains trapped, the surrounding organs become irritated. The result is painful blood-filled cysts, lesions, adhesions, or scar tissue.
You might have endometriosis if you experience painful periods. Other symptoms include:
- Heavy period bleeding
- Unusual bleeding
- Pelvic pain or tenderness
- Diarrhea, constipation
- Suppressed immune system
Schedule an appointment with your gynecologist if you suspect that you might have endometriosis. Your doctor will perform an exam to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Your doctor may also order an ultrasound and/or MRI. The ultrasound can reveal enlarged ovaries and cysts. With MRI results, your doctor gains detailed information about the endometrial implants.
The severity of your endometriosis determines your treatment.
Medication is one treatment option. Pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) reduce uncomfortable and painful symptoms. Hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, progestin therapy, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists, and aromatase inhibitors can also relieve endometriosis symptoms.
Likewise, outpatient laparoscopic surgery removes the abnormal tissue and any related scar tissue. At Folsom, OBGYN we use the DaVinci Robotic System, a precise method that limits scarring and reduces side effects and recovery time.
For severe cases, your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy. This option can be effective but may cause long-term health effects, especially if you undergo a hysterectomy before age 35.
Why Observe Endometriosis Awareness Week
The pain and challenges of endometriosis are real. That’s why Endometriosis Awareness Week is such an important observance. The week’s purpose is five-pronged.
1. Promote awareness. Endometriosis is a real disease that can be debilitating and disabling.
2. Highlight the effects. Discuss ways this condition challenges women with endometriosis as well as their family members, friends, and caregivers.
3. Create understanding. Encourage medical professionals, educators, employers, and society to realize the effects, symptoms and treatment of endometriosis.
4. Seek treatment. All women deserve consistent care and treatment that follows best practices and is available wherever they live.
5. Make a difference. Give women who have been affected by endometriosis opportunities to share their stories, educate others and raise awareness.
As we observe Endometriosis Week this March, we invite you to reach out to your doctor. The condition is treatable, and you deserve to live pain-free.