Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects up to 10% of Canadian women, and is the result of tissue that would normally line the inside of the uterus instead growing outside of the uterus.
The most common complaint Dr. Ali Ghahary hears from those with endometriosis is pelvic pain, usually associated with the menstrual cycle. While it is not uncommon for women to experience pain and cramping during their period, those with endometriosis tend to have pain that is worse than usual. Other common symptoms of endometriosis include excessive bleeding, painful urination, pain during or after intercourse, fatigue, bloating and nausea. Complications from endometriosis include infertility, with up to one-third of women with endometriosis having difficulty getting pregnant, as well as seeing an increased number of women being diagnosed with ovarian cancer as opposed to those who do not have endometriosis.
While the exact cause of endometriosis is not known, theories have suggested that it may be the result of blood containing endometrial cells breaking into the pelvic cavity rather than out of the body. It has also been speculated that surgical procedures such as C-sections may also cause endometriosis. The risk of developing endometriosis increases if you’ve never given birth, have a history of chronic pelvic infections, have relatives with endometriosis (mother/sister/aunt), or have been diagnosed with other uterine abnormalities.
Endometriosis is often mistaken for other medical conditions that can also cause pelvic pain such as PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), thus complicating the diagnosis. Pelvic exams, ultrasounds and laparoscopies are the common tests performed to diagnose endometriosis.
Pain control is imperative for those with endometriosis, as it can be quite a debilitating condition depending on the severity of the symptoms. Over-the-counter pain medications such as NSAIDs are always tried as the first option of treatment, as well as other home-remedies such as heating pads and warm baths; this will help to reduce cramps and calm the pelvic muscles. Hormone therapy such as birth control is also used to reduce the length of the menstrual cycle, which should suppress the pain associated with endometriosis. A complete hysterectomy may be performed, but usually only as a last resort and when all other avenues have been exhausted.