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Many women can relate to painful periods from time to time. But what if the pain is so bad, it interferes with your life?
Endometriosis occurs when endometrium-like tissue is found outside the uterus, most commonly in the pelvic cavity. It can cause severe pain and cramping for many women, but not necessarily for all.
Many aspects of endometriosis are misunderstood. While it’s known that women have a higher risk of developing endometriosis if their mother and/or sister(s) are affected, one specific cause has not yet been identified.
Due to the complex nature of the disease, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about it. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness has led to a delay in when endometriosis is diagnosed and treated. Some women are unaware of their endometriosis until they have trouble getting pregnant.
Let’s review some facts versus fiction about the disease:
MYTH: Endometriosis is rare.
FACT: Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological conditions, affecting 1 in 10 women of childbearing age in the United States. It affects women equally across all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
MYTH: Endometriosis does not occur before age 20.
FACT: Endometriosis can begin as early as a girl’s first period, so teenagers aren’t too young to have it. Many girls experience symptoms during adolescence but aren’t diagnosed until their 20s or 30s because their painful periods are dismissed as normal.
MYTH: Endometriosis equals infertility.
FACT: Too many young women believe that having endometriosis invariably means they will become infertile. While 30 - 40 percent of women with endometriosis have issues with their fertility, many still go on to have children.
MYTH: Endometriosis is only bad period pain.
FACT: Endometriosis is so much more than painful periods. Many women with endometriosis report tremendous pain or cramping before, during and after their periods. The pain does not go away with pain relief drugs, and can even affect your ability to work or go about daily activities.
MYTH: Pregnancy cures endometriosis.
FACT: There is no cure for endometriosis. Pregnancy may temporarily suppress the symptoms of endometriosis because of increased progesterone in the body, but it does not eradicate the disease itself. Symptoms usually recur after childbirth.
MYTH: A hysterectomy will cure endometriosis.
FACT: Most endometriosis grows on areas other than the reproductive organs. Removing the uterus along with the remaining disease, may relieve some symptoms, but it won’t cure the disease. Many women will still experience pain after a hysterectomy.
MYTH: There are no effective treatments for endometriosis.
FACT: Mild cases of endometriosis can be treated with hormone therapy and other medications, including the birth control pill. More severe cases may require surgery. In many cases, infertility can be successfully treated with fertility drugs, insemination or in vitro fertilization.
How can you tell if you have endometriosis? One common symptom of the disease is pelvic pain, usually around menstruation, but some women experience symptoms throughout their entire cycle. Other symptoms vary depending on where the endometriosis lesions are growing, and may include:
Endometriosis can impact all aspects of your life and well-being. Many women with endometriosis are told their period pain is normal and to deal with it. But severe period pain is not normal. You know your body. If you have chronic pain that interferes with your day-to-day life, talk with your doctor. If left untreated, the disease can progress and become more difficult to treat later.
Learn more about women’s health at Edward Elmhurst Health.
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