The month of March is dedicated to raising awareness of endometriosis, a condition affecting over 176 million women around the world. In recognition of this, we want to take a moment to talk about this condition: what it is, how to recognize the symptoms, and the various treatments available.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder that occurs when the tissue that normally forms your uterine lining grows outside the uterus, on your ovaries, your bowel, or on the tissues lining your pelvis. This exterior growth can irritate the structures that it touches and cause adhesions (scar tissue) on those organs.
Although endometriosis affects approximately 1 in 10 women, it can present in different ways or even not at all which makes it more challenging to diagnose and treat.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pelvic pain
- Painful periods
- Pain with sex
- Heavy periods or bleeding between periods
How does this affect your fertility?
Women with endometriosis can have greater difficulty conceiving, with numbers ranging between 30% and 50% of those diagnosed experiencing infertility. Endometriosis can affect female fertility in a variety of ways, from distorted anatomy of the pelvis due to adhesions, inflammation of the pelvic structures, scarred and occluded fallopian tubes, or altered immune system functioning.
How can endometriosis be treated?
There are varying degrees of treatment for endometriosis, which are recommended based on the severity of an individual’s case. Treatment can range from continuous hormonal birth control or other estrogen-lowering medications, or surgery to remove endometrial tissue and adhesions.
It is important to go to your annual gynecology exam and talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Though these symptoms may not be the result of endometriosis, the sooner it can be diagnosed, the better it will be for your health and your future fertility.