Endometriosis: Does It Affect
I was first asked to write an article about endometriosis my response was a simple
one, "sure, Ill do it." As I began to gather research I thought
to myself how quick and easy this was going to be. I already possessed a great
deal of medical literature on the subject and I thought I could easily regurgitate
a page full of statistics, case studies, and theories.
I was revising my second draft something occurred to me, I realized that my article
had no human perspective at all, it was in fact, just cold recited statistics.
This was absurd, I thought to myself. You see, I live with endometriosis everyday.
So drafts one and two were quickly thrown into my recycle bin, in hopes that maybe
I could help even one person to understand this debilitating condition.
Endometriosis is a hormonal
and immune condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium)
is found outside the uterus. It is usually found in the abdomen, fallopian tubes,
ovaries, between the vagina and rectum, and the ligaments supporting the uterus.
Endometrial growths may also be found in the bladder, bowel, cervix, and less
commonly in places like the lungs or arms.
tissue responds to a womans normal monthly hormone cycle. However, unlike
endometrium in the uterus which is shed as a menstrual period, tissue growing
outside the uterus has no where to go. It continually builds up month after month.
This causes adhesions that may become attached to nearby organs such as fallopian
tubes, ovaries, or bowel which causes a wide variety of symptoms including moderate
to severe abdominal pain, bowel problems, or infertility.
The signs and symptoms of endometriosis
are as different as the women who possess them. Some women are very fortunate
and have few or no symptoms. Others of us arent quite as lucky.
most common symptoms are painful periods, pain during ovulation, irregular periods,
diarrhea or painful bowel movements during periods, painful sex, fatigue, and
abdominal bloating. There are many other symptoms that arent as common,
they may include: infertility, chronic yeast infections, decreased immune system,
nausea or stomach discomfort during periods, mid-cycle bleeding, or painful urination.
endometriosis, or "endo" as we refer to it, can be extremely difficult.
The symptoms listed above can also be signs of a variety of other conditions from
ovarian cysts to a pelvic infection. Endo was once falsely called the "career
womans disease." We now know that it was titled this because working
women generally had more resources to seek continuous medical care.
women with endometriosis have seen multiple health care professionals before getting
a correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, the "its all in your head"
myth is still prevalent, especially with teen girls complaining of painful periods.
Endo affects women from all races, all ethnicities,
all childbearing aged women, and all social groups it does not discriminate.
only definite way to diagnose endo is through surgery. The most common procedure
is laparoscopy. Its a fairly simple procedure performed under general anesthesia.
A small incision is made in the womans belly button and the laparoscope
is inserted. Looking through the scope the doctor can then identify where possible
endo adhesions may be found. Oftentimes, the woman and her physician have decided
ahead of time that any visible endometriosis will be removed at that time. However,
endo adhesions often may not be visible through the scope and diagnosis may become
there is no cure, but several treatment options are available. One thing to consider
when deciding on a treatment method is what is the goal trying to be achieved.
For example; mild to moderate endo that doesn't prevent a woman from her normal
daily routine may only need pain medication.
severe endo sufferers with multiple symptoms may get relief through hormone therapy,
alternative therapies, or conservative to radical surgery. Hormone therapy is
intended to stop ovulation. There are many different methods of hormone therapy
and they may include: oral contraceptives, Danazol (a testosterone derivative),
progesterone drugs, or GnRH drugs (gonadotropin releasing hormone). The side effects
from synthetic hormones can be miserable for some women. Conservative surgery
includes removing the endometrial growths. More radical surgery would include
removal of ovaries or complete hysterectomy.
The emotional effects of endometriosis
can often outnumber the physical ones. Some days the pain can be so overwhelming
that a sufferer may not be able to get out of bed. Ive met women who have
lost their jobs because of one too many of those days. Not to mention, mood swings,
hot flashes, headaches, weight gain, decreased libido, or nausea from synthetic
hormones can be unnerving. Constant diarrhea or constant constipation from bowel
adhesions can make daily life miserable. Painful intercourse or lack of libido
obviously can take their toll on a relationship or marriage. Infertility can be
a devastating diagnosis. I believe this condition knows no boundaries. Its wake
can be very destructive to women's lives.
I feel very
fortunate that, for the most part, endometriosis does not rule my life. I have
most of my symptoms under control with the help of a wonderful and truly caring
physician. Although everyday I am forced to think about it and its effects,
I guess I view it as somewhat of a challenge. A challenge that I will win! Just
like any challenging facet of our lives there are good days and not-so-good days.
you are experiencing any of the symptoms I have described, I encourage you to
seek a diagnosis. Early detection and treatment of endometriosis can be of great
In addition, it is essential to find out
as much as you can about endo, and to learn and share your experiences with others
who can offer support. There are many resources available.
Endometriosis Association offers support groups, physician referrals, Internet
chat rooms and discussion lists, news on treatment options, and a variety of educational
Wishing all sufferers pain-free days,
Lisa was diagnosed with endo at age 17. The views
expressed above are Lisa's personal experiences and recommendations. Published in the Fall 1999 issue of the FWHC-WA newsletter.
Lisa's experience was published, we received the following
letter from a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture...
you for your informative article on endometriosis. And thank you for at least
including the words, "alternative treatments."
would like to elaborate briefly on those two words. Chronic conditions such as
endometriosis and their accompanying symptoms, including pain, hormonal imbalances,
and digestive/bowel problems, often show an excellent response to alternative
therapy. As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (who got my start in
the health field at Cedar River Clinic!), I can tell you that many women have
changed not only their experience of endometriosis, but their whole health picture
when treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and/or make the necessary dietary
and lifestyle changes.
The #1 rule for anyone dealing
with a chronic health issue is DO NOT GIVE UP. To get to the root of it, you will
need to be persistent and creative. Keep trying new therapies until you find one
that fits! pain meds may "manage" endometriosis, and sometimes surgery
is unavoidable, but both carry far more risk to you than most alternatives. Ask
your insurance what they cover and try the least invasive first; ask your doctor
for the input, but remember, you know yourself better than anyone. Follow your
gut and get to the source of what ails you!
Seattle, WA, November 1999
We also received the following email message
Just an fyi that this sentence on the Endometriosis page of your Website is not correct:
"Endo was once falsely called the "career woman's disease." We now know that it was titled this because working women generally had more resources to seek continuous medical care."
I was diagnosed with endometriosis fifteen years ago and have done quite a bit of reading on the subject. It's my understanding that Endo was called "career woman's disease" because the trend over the past 20 years or so is that working women often postpone having children into their 30s and beyond. Because pregnancy can put Endo into "remission," those women who have children in their 20s do not suffer from prolonged symptoms, or at least have a break from the symptoms while they are pregnant.
Women who are working and choose to postpone having children have years of prolonged, painful symptoms that would require more extensive medical care such as surgery. So per the above sentence on your website: it's not called "career woman's disease" because working women have more resources to continous medical care. It's called that because working women often postpone childbearing into their 30s, which can worsen the Endo symptoms, which can necessitate continuous medical care.
Tue, 18 Sep 2007
Endo-Resolved: Positive information to aid your healing of Endometriosis
Feminist Women's Health Center