Good Morning all, how is everyone doing? Hopefully remaining strong, especially with what’s going on in the world 🤞 My family and I have been trying to do our part in helping – by donating clothes and essentials for anyone that needs them. I said it last week and I’ll say it again now, my heart goes out to everyone affected. Apart from dropping things off to be donated, I had a blood test yesterday to see if anything shows up on why my wrist isn’t healing properly, as I’ve mentioned a few times before that I’m still suffering from Tendonitis, and it has now been an ongoing problem for over six months, so they want to check my blood to make sure my body is functioning properly, as well as refer me to a Musculoskeletal specialist to investigate further, so fingers crossed something can be done to help my wrist get better.
Enough with my rambling, on with today’s post which you may or may not already know…but March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and I wanted to do a post about the condition as its something that is very close to my heart, as my sister Kim has unfortunately suffered with it since she was a teenager, and witnessing firsthand what she’s had to go through and still goes through now, It was a no-brainer that I needed to do this post to raise awareness if it means helping even just one person who is also suffering from the condition or knows someone that is, to know that you are not alone.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. With endometriosis, the endometrial-like tissue acts as endometrial tissue would it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. But because this tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions…bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other.
There are four main types of endometriosis, based on where it is:
- Superficial Peritoneal Endometriosis: The Most common type. The peritoneum is a thin membrane that lines your abdomen and pelvis. It also covers most of the organs in these cavities. In this type, the endometrial tissue attaches to the peritoneum. This is the least severe form.
- Endometriomas: These are dark, fluid-filled cysts. They’re also called chocolate cysts. They vary in size and can appear in different parts of your pelvis or abdomen, but they’re most common in the ovaries.
- Deeply Infiltrating Endometriosis: In this type, the endometrial tissue has invaded the organs either within or outside your pelvic cavity. This can include your ovaries, rectum, bladder, and bowels. It’s rare, but sometimes a lot of scar tissue can bond organs so they become stuck in place. This condition is called frozen pelvis. But this only happens to 1%-5% of people with endometriosis.
- Abdominal Wall Endometriosis: In some cases, endometrial tissue can grow on the abdominal wall. The cells may attach to a surgical incision, like one from a C-section.
The main symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with menstrual periods. Although many experience cramping during their menstrual periods, those with endometriosis typically describe menstrual pain that’s far worse than usual. Pain also may increase over time.
Other signs and symptoms can include:
- Back pain during your period
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Pain when pooping or peeing, especially during your period
- Unusual or heavy bleeding during periods
- Blood in your stool or urine
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Painful sex
- Fatigue that won’t go away
- Trouble getting pregnant
Severe endometriosis pain can affect your quality of life. Some women struggle with anxiety or depression, but the main complication of endometriosis is impaired fertility. Approximately one-third to one-half of women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. For pregnancy to occur, an egg must be released from an ovary, travel through the neighboring fallopian tube, become fertilized by a sperm cell and attach itself to the uterine wall to begin development. Endometriosis may obstruct the tube and keep the egg and sperm from uniting. But the condition also seems to affect fertility in less-direct ways, such as by damaging the sperm or egg.
A surgeon can fix those problems, but endometriosis can make it hard for you to conceive in other ways:
- It can change your body’s hormonal chemistry.
- It can cause your body’s immune system to attack the embryo.
- It can affect the layer of tissue lining your uterus where the egg implants itself.
A doctor can surgically remove the endometrial tissue. This clears the way for the sperm to fertilize the egg. If surgery isn’t an option, you might consider intrauterine insemination (IUI), which involves putting your partner’s sperm directly into your uterus. Another option is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). But even so, many with mild to moderate endometriosis can still conceive and carry a pregnancy to term.
To diagnose endometriosis and other conditions that can cause pelvic pain, your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms, including the location of your pain and when it occurs. To confirm it, they can do tests including:
- Pelvic exam: During a pelvic exam, your doctor manually feels areas in your pelvis for abnormalities, such as cysts on your reproductive organs or scars behind your uterus.
- Ultrasound: A standard ultrasound imaging test won’t definitively tell your doctor whether you have endometriosis, but it can identify cysts associated with endometriosis (endometriomas).
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): For some, an MRI helps with surgical planning, giving your surgeon detailed information about the location and size of endometrial implants.
- Laparoscopy: In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a surgeon for a procedure that allows the surgeon to view inside your abdomen (laparoscopy). While you’re under general anesthesia, a doctor makes a small cut in your belly and inserts a thin tube with a camera on the end looking for signs of endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
*A laparoscopy can provide information about the location, extent and size of the endometrial implants. Your surgeon may take a tissue sample (biopsy) for further testing.*
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for Endometriosis. Treatment usually involves medication or surgery. Doctors typically recommend trying conservative treatment approaches first, opting for surgery if initial treatment fails like:
Pain Medication: Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) to help ease painful menstrual cramps.
Hormones: Supplemental hormones are sometimes effective in reducing or eliminating the pain of endometriosis. The rise and fall of hormones during the menstrual cycle causes endometrial implants to thicken, break down and bleed. Hormone medication may slow endometrial tissue growth and prevent new implants of endometrial tissue. Common hormones include:
- Hormonal contraceptives – Birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings help control the hormones responsible for the buildup of endometrial tissue each month. Many have lighter and shorter menstrual flow when they’re using a hormonal contraceptive.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists [such as elagolix sodium (Orilissa) or leuprolide (Lupron)] – These drugs block the production of ovarian-stimulating hormones, lowering estrogen levels and preventing menstruation. This causes endometrial tissue to shrink.
- Progestin therapy – Intrauterine device with levonorgestrel (Mirena, Skyla), contraceptive implant (Nexplanon), contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera) or progestin pill (Camila), can halt menstrual periods and the growth of endometrial implants, which may relieve endometriosis signs and symptoms.
- Aromatase inhibitors – Aromatase inhibitors are a class of medicines that reduce the amount of estrogen in your body. Your doctor may recommend an aromatase inhibitor along with a progestin or combination hormonal contraceptive to treat endometriosis.
- Surgery – Your doctor might recommend surgery to take out as much of the affected tissue as possible. In some cases, surgery helps symptoms and can make you more likely to get pregnant. Your doctor might use a laparoscope or do a standard surgery that uses larger cuts. In the most severe cases, you may need a surgery called a hysterectomy to take out your ovaries, uterus, and cervix. But without them, you can’t get pregnant later.
Living/Coping With Endometriosis
If your pain persists or if finding a treatment that works takes some time, warm baths and a heating pad can help relax pelvic muscles, reducing cramping and pain. Alternatively, you can try other measures at home to relieve your discomfort:
Adjust your diet: Eating certain types of foods while avoiding others may help reduce inflammation and pain due to endometriosis. Some examples are; fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish (Salmon and Herring), and nuts/seeds. Whilst drinking caffeinated coffee and soda seems to increase your chances of developing endometriosis, so its best to avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Reduce stress: Finding ways to manage stress, whether it’s through; yoga, meditation, reading a book, listening to calming music or by simply carving out time for self-care can help you ease symptoms.
Stay Active: Getting regular exercise can benefit your overall health in several different ways by improving your cardiovascular health and reducing pain, as well as boosting your energy levels and relieving stress. At least 30 minutes of exercise a few days a week can help.
Seek Support: While endometriosis can be isolating, remember that you’re not alone. Consider joining a support group wheter it be online or in person for women with endometriosis or fertility problems.Sometimes it helps simply to talk to other women who can relate to your feelings and experiences.
Try telling loved ones what you’re thinking and feeling, and how they can best support you.
Talk with a mental health professional to work through your feelings and emotions or to address symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Living with endometriosis can be an ongoing challenge. A diagnosis can take a long time due to vague symptoms or lack of awareness of Endometriosis, so whilst waiting to recieve your diagnosis, learning as much as you can about the condition, the different treatment strategies, and recent research breakthroughs may help you to determine what might or might not work for you.
Being a spouse, family member, or friend to someone with endometriosis can be challenging, especially if you don’t fully understand the illness. Not knowing what to say or how to act can make it seem as though you do not care. It’s important for those close to someone suffering to have a clear understanding of what endometriosis is. This includes understanding the symptoms, treatments, and even side effects of medicines. Letting endometriosis sufferers know you are supportive can help tremendously with their coping.
Thank you for coming to my blog and reading today’s post, I hope you found it useful and possibly learned a few things that you never knew before. For now, I hope you have a good week and I will see you next time.