· By Georgia Seymour-Smith
What is Endometriosis?
I talk about endometriosis a lot. When I was 20 years old I was rushed to hospital because my appendix decided to burst open. Not fun. But from that hospital trip they discovered something else… endometriosis. 10% of uterus owners have endo. Or, that is, 10% of uterus owners have been diagnosed with endo. Endo isn’t an easy thing to diagnose. And a lot of doctors brush it aside as ‘normal period pain’. The only way to get a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis is a laparoscopy aka keyhole surgery. For many women, this surgery isn’t cheap, so the road to diagnosis isn’t simple.
But, what even is endometriosis? And how does endometriosis affect the lives of women and people with uteruses?
Basically, endo is when the tissue which normally lines the inside of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. In endo sufferers, this tissue usually grows on places like the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the tissue lining the pelvis. For me, my endo grows on my bowel and bladder.
When that endometrial tissue is doing its thing inside your uterus as it normally would, it’s providing a super useful function. This uterine tissue is basically what causes us to have a menstrual cycle. It prepares the uterus to get pregnant and helps to maintain pregnancy throughout. However, if you’re not getting pregnant, the uterine lining sheds each month which is what causes us to have a period.
BUT, when that tissue is growing it places it has no business growing (like, you know, OUTSIDE the uterus), this tissue still acts in the same way. It grows and each month it tries to thicken, break down and bleed with every menstrual cycle. But, because it’s not growing inside the uterus it has no way to exit your body and it becomes trapped. This results in a whole lotta pain, inflammation and sometimes even infertility.
Endometriosis is a chronic and painful condition. Some of the symptoms of endo include;
- Painful periods
- Pain during sex
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Excessive bleeding
- Pain with bowel movements or urination
- & more
The severity of these symptoms varies person to person.
The juries still out on exactly how to treat endometriosis. There’s no one 100% effective method or cure. But, there are some options in dealing with endometriosis. It’s important to discuss treatment options with your doctor and to understand that every body is different and treatments have various efficacy. These treatments include;
Laparoscopic surgery to remove the endo;
This is something I have done. For me, it actually made my endo more aggressive. But I know for others this can work miracles. This is probably the most invasive treatment for endo.
Hormone based medicines;
The birth control pill and IUDs are often offered as a cure to endo. They can help the uterine lining to stop growing.
Physiotherapists can help with pain management, especially for bladder and bowel problems related to endo.
Prescription medications and other at-home treatments are sometimes offered to help manage the pain associated with endo
So, that’s what the deal is with endometriosis. Endo can be a really difficult condition to deal with. Not just physically, but also mentally. There’s some days I just can’t get out of bed due to my endo and….it sucks. It really does. If you’re struggling with endo or think you may have endo, I highly recommend consulting your doctor to come up with a plan moving forward. Once you’ve done that, make sure you find good support in your personal life. Whether that’s leaning on family or friends or joining online support groups. You don’t have to go through endo alone.
If you have any questions about endo or want someone to talk to, my inbox is always open.