1 in 10 Women Have a Painful, Hard to Diagnose Condition. Do You?

Many moons ago, I had a sweet co-worker who bonded with me over being vegetarian when I was a newbie. She shared with me that she only started eating that way a year after finally being diagnosed with endometriosis, and she was game to try anything that would help.

She said that sometimes she didn’t think people believed how sick she was. There were times I would find her at her desk crying, hunched over in pain before finally deciding to leave for the day. Then she would be out for a while. Such was her excruciatingly painful experience living with endometriosis.

Over 150,000,000 women like her are fighting their own battles with the condition, which often goes undetected for years. We’re talking like ten years or more! Symptoms of endometriosis can sometimes mimic those of PMS, feeling like a bad case of menstrual cramps or a period migraine.

What exactly is endometriosis? We know that menstruation occurs when the uterus sheds its lining. When the tissue that makes up that lining grows outside of the uterus in places like the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, or outer wall of the uterus, it’s called endometriosis.

This abnormal growth of tissue causes pelvic pain, back pain, fertility problems, nausea, vomiting, hormone fluctuations, and can be a trigger for migraines. Those are just a handful of symptoms.

Joint aches, irregular bowels, pain during urination or intercourse are often the signs that push women to see a doctor, but many are still misdiagnosed. Why?

Those coping with it report not being believed by their doctor; being dismissed as having severe PMS; or receiving a diagnosis for something else like fibroids, ovarian cysts, or pelvic inflammatory disease. So they either begin a medical protocol for one of those conditions or treat themselves at home for what they think it may be.

Currently, there is only one way to get a proper diagnosis for endometriosis: by laparoscopy. With this procedure, a doctor can examine the pelvic region and organs with a small, inserted camera.

Although fibroids and cysts may also be present, there are women who won’t find out they have endometriosis until they receive a laparoscopy or happen to have a gynecological surgery for a different reason. By then, there’s a chance that the tissue is growing everywhere.

What is alarming is that endometriosis can set in during a girl’s teenage years, and they can live with a variety of symptoms for decades without a firm diagnosis, if ever. So, how can a woman find relief?

Treatment can take the form of pain management, hormonal therapy, dietary changes, and surgery. While surgery involves a hysterectomy, there are a high percentage of endometriosis cases that reoccur unless the ovaries are also removed.

It becomes a tortuous decision for women who have been struggling to conceive and are holding out hope for a treatment that can solve their endometriosis and fertility issues. It’s important for women to listen to their bodies and to find a physician who is willing to listen.

Click on the video below to hear more about this painful disease and its signs. If you are showing some of these symptoms and suspect a connection to endometriosis, follow up with a health care provider.

Do you know someone who suffers from endometriosis? What types of treatment have they received? Did you realize it’s hard to receive a diagnosis?

 Johns Hopkins