Painful sex, painful periods, painful urination - these are just three symptoms of endometriosis. Can you guess what they have in common? For a condition that affects up to 10% of the global population (that’s as many people as diabetes), endometriosis is not talked about nearly enough.
Endometriosis is when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. This abnormal tissue builds up and is shed every menstrual cycle, however, unlike the regular period cramps, the pain level is excruciating. Mae Whitman describes, it “like being shot with a cannonball in the stomach”. Below, we’re going to delve into the most common symptoms of endometriosis and the importance of talking to your doctor ASAP.
Along with so many other symptoms, the most common of endometriosis are:
• Painful periods (especially felt in the abdomen or lower back)
• Chronic pelvic pain
• Abnormal or heavy menstrual flow
• Pain during sex
• Painful urination while on your period
• Painful bowel movements while on your period
• Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea or constipation
Once again, of the symptoms listed above, you’ll notice the key word for several is “pain.” We can’t stress this enough - do not dismiss any pain you are feeling, especially during your period. Endometriosis presents in many ways, so as soon as you feel like something is off, talk to your doctor.
Despite the fact that millions of people around the world are living with endometriosis, there is a culture of disbelief surrounding it, not to mention a lack of experts and resources pertaining to it. That is why it can take up to five years, several medical professionals, and countless tests to get an endometriosis diagnosis in Canada. While extremely frustrating, it’s important to recognize this so that when you speak to the doctor, you can be your own advocate. Tell your doctor if you’re feeling any pain or discomfort and be prepared with questions and information. There are plenty of resources available online with Endometriosis Network Canada being our favourite and most trusted. In terms of what to expect, your doctor will ask you for a family history and may also do an intravaginal ultrasound.
While a mere diagnosis comes as a relief to many (especially after experiencing years of misdiagnoses), endometriosis is ultimately a progressive disease that requires a multi-faceted treatment plan. Such a plan includes everything from pain management and diet to physiotherapy and medication. In many cases, ablation or laparoscopic excision (LAPEX) surgery may also be a course of action to help improve quality of life.
What’s it like to live with endometriosis?
Painful. Both physically and mentally. Especially when others have a difficult time understanding, or don’t believe, the pain the pain is real. They may dismiss your pain because they can’t see it or think you’re being dramatic (or worse, making it up.)
The pain can be so great it’s hard to even move some days. Anxiety levels are high spanning across one’s social and professional life. Calling in stick to work, cancelling plans, missing out on time with friends, family, and doing much loved activities. It also comes with major worry over fertility and relationship issues for so many reasons.
Living with endometriosis isn’t easy to say the least. Whether you’re a friend, family member, or employer of someone affected by this condition, believe them and be sensitive to their pain.
For those living with endometriosis, whether diagnosed or not, listen to the pain and visit a doctor. If it runs in your family, ask your child(ren) about their periods to detect it early. And most importantly, if you are an #EndoWarrior remember that you are not alone. #1in10
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