Endometriosis is a condition that affects 6 to 10% of all women. Often experienced through severe pain during menstruation, this disease can be incapacitating and have severe consequences for some women.
To better understand this little-known and often overlooked pathology, here are some clarifications on its symptoms, its implications and the treatments available.
Endometriosis: definition and current understanding
First of all, to know what endometriosis is, you need to understand what the endometrial tissue is.
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus found along its walls. It is formed between periods and thickens until the time of ovulation. If no fertilization has occurred, the upper part of the lining breaks down and is evacuated, causing menstruation. With each new cycle, the endometrium is reconstructed.
Endometriosis is a condition characterized by the presence of endometrial-like tissue outside the uterus. It can be found in other areas or organs of the body, usually in the internal organs of the abdomen. Connected to the hormonal cycle, the tissue adapts to the menstrual cycle and is most common in women in their thirties.
Often not diagnosed, many women may suffer from endometriosis without knowing. For some, this means experiencing severe, even incapacitating pain, which they think is normal, due to a lack of knowledge on the subject.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Women with endometriosis can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some have no symptoms at all, while others may experience them every day. In general, the following symptoms can be found:
- Pain during periods: gradual or intense, which can be similar to severe dysmenorrhea, with a variable intensity that in some cases can prevent women from working;
- Chronic pain during sexual intercourse: also called dyspareunia, can occur during different periods of the cycle, in certain positions or constantly for some, to the point of avoiding intercourse altogether;
- Ovarian cyst;
- Heavy periods or small amounts of blood loss outside of menstruation;
- Digestive disorders;
- Urinary burns;
- Chronic fatigue;
- Emotional instability.
Some of these symptoms can be crippling and affect both the physical and psychological aspects of life. They could even last over medium or long term. In some cases, endometriosis can also lead to infertility. This is why a diagnosis, medical care and emotional support are essential to better accompany those who suffer from it.
How can endometriosis be detected?
Endometriosis can be detected during a gynecological examination. It can first be detected during a pelvic or vaginal ultrasound when there are endometriosis cysts.
Alternatively, a diagnosis of endometriosis can be made by laparoscopy. This examination may be accompanied by an MRI and an ultrasound.
The diagnosis of endometriosis can take up to 5 years. This is due, among other things, to a lack of knowledge about the disease! The many taboos surrounding menstruation and the various symptoms can dissuade some women from consulting a health professional.
Endometriosis: treatment and therapeutic approaches
Generally, cases of endometriosis tend to decrease after the age of 45 and disappear at the time of menopause. Symptoms can also decrease significantly during pregnancy.
Still widely misunderstood, there is still no treatment to cure endometriosis. They are generally treated with therapeutic approaches adapted to the situation.
Firstly, it’s important to ease the pain associated with endometriosis. The use of painkillers can help women who experience severe menstrual cramps. In some cases, doctors may prescribe hormone therapy to reduce symptoms. Some forms of endometriosis may also require surgery, depending on its location and involvement.
In parallel, integrative therapeutic management can be beneficial, including:
- Pain management;
Additionally, a personal practice of sports, meditation or yoga can help some women live better with endometriosis.
Moreover, recent observations suggest that an overall improvement in the quality of life of women who suffer from it also seems to be a promising avenue!
The best companions: talking, listening and supporting
Affecting nearly one woman in ten, endometriosis can generate a great deal of physical and psychological suffering when it is not diagnosed or understood by those around her. This is why we all have a role to play in raising awareness about this disease!
To support our sisters, mothers, daughters and friends affected, let’s speak out and discuss menstruation, blood, pain and endometriosis!