Could It Be Endometriosis? In Me? The Endometriosis "Dirty Dozen"
As we all get older, we begin to sense our own mortality. As children, we feel invincible and invulnerable to the bad things that seem to happen to only other people. However, as we accrue the years under our belts, we begin to realize that the “things” that can happen to any one of us depend on our time of exposure to the ups and downs of life itself. Sooner or later, things will inevitably happen.
One of the more salient things that dawns on us as we mature is the concept of reproduction. Reproduction is more than just adding another digit to the population census, but a reflection of our heritage. Having and raising a child and children is very important to many people and their sense of place in the universe. They might feel that leaving this world—the other thing that dawns on us after a while—without a continuity of ourselves in our children is a great abyss of meaning in their lives. These concerns about fertility and their ramifications on life generally don’t even come up until one comes up empty when attempting pregnancy. Then it sounds loud and clear.
Infertility, Endometriosis, and Pain
A common cause of infertility is interference with both the reproductive anatomy and its normal function because of the inflammatory condition called endometriosis. Endometriosis is when there is uterine lining-like tissue, bloody and hormonally reactive by nature, in the otherwise sterile environment of the pelvis. The inflammation so produced causes biochemical interference with conception and mechanical blockage in the routes of egg and sperm transport in the fertilization itinerary. Noteworthy is that many cases of endometriosis are diagnosed not by pain, which is the other common aspect of it, but by women wondering what’s wrong when there has been on conception after a time of trying.
Pain: The Red Flag.
Pain may be the only thing driving a woman to her gynecologist for evaluation. As such, desire for pregnancy takes a back seat; this, however, is probably not the most prudent attitude. The problem with endometriosis when you’re not ready for pregnancy is that when you finally do become ready, there may have been progressive harm to the pelvis. It may not be a problem when you’re centered on the pain that interferes with your quality of life, but it will become a problem later if it’s allowed to continue. A common mistake is when pain is masked with painkillers or anti-inflammatories while giving all of the warning signals for its cause being endometriosis.
Early Warnings: a Dozen Reasons to Beware.
Assuming that any warning signals should be addressed as soon as possible before any progression of severity deteriorates into infertility, you may ask, “What are these warning signs?” Here are twelve warnings:
- Painful Periods: called “dysmenorrhea,” this is any discomfort that interferes with your day-to-day activities (daily living). Periods may be inconvenient and noticeable, but they should not deny you your activities of daily living. Dysmenorrhea presents as the exaggeration of the expected mild cramping that occurs with normal periods.
- Heavy Periods: called “menorrhagia,” periods that are out of the norm can be easily identified simply by comparing notes with female friends and family.
- Pelvic Pain: the inflammation of endometriosis peaks during your period, when this tissue is designed to brew up; however, although the peak is then, there can be pain all of the time.
- Long Periods: called “hypermenorrhea,” these are periods that last longer than normal (usually less than a week is considered normal; eight days makes it official). Hypermenorrhea is a term that is also used to describe heavy periods (see “menorrhagia,” above).
- Irregular Periods: called “metrorrhagia,” an ovarian cyst of endometriosis, called a “chocolate cyst,” can delay the second half of your cycle because of a late or absent ovulation due to interference of this cyst with your normal ovarian function.
- Painful Sex: called “dyspareunia,” this is any discomfort that makes sex uncomfortable up to and including prohibitive. This can jeopardize relationships, because it is important to be able to express affection and intimacy physically. Also, it can be difficult to become pregnant without conventional intercourse. Endometriosis causes scarring and adherence of the normally free-floating structures in the pelvis, locking them in place where they can be battered by the mechanical action of intercourse.
- Infertility: defined by inability to become pregnant after a year of trying, six-months of trying, or even shorter, depending on your age, this should be an obvious symptom to provoke a visit to your physician.
- Fatigue: pain and misery burn a lot of calories and also interfere with good nutrition and the brain-body benefits of exercise and activity.
- Digestive Problems: pain and inflammation can interfere with the normal goings-on of your gastrointestinal tract, including your colon, bowel, and stomach.
- Lower Back Pain: endometriosis that implants on ligaments inside your pelvis that anchor your uterus (womb) will cause referred pain of the inflammation to the lower back.
- Pain with Urination and Bowel Movements: scarring and adhesions involving the bladder and rectum can provoke pain with the otherwise painless elimination of urine and feces.
- Mood Changes: pain is a famous mood-changer—for the worse. Also, constant worry over one’s fertility problems will take a toll on your normal disposition.
The Bottom Line
The basic lesson here it to pay attention to your periods, do not blow off any recurrent pain, and keep up with your normal GYN visits and sound off if you have any of the above warnings. Your doctor cannot read your mind, so make known any of these complaints—don’t leave the office without doing this.
Also, any suspicious occurrences that seem to peak rhythmically on a monthly basis is the classic presentation, although anytime is possible with endometriosis.
If your healthcare professional determines that your condition probably indicates endometriosis, this isn’t good enough for a diagnosis. It has to be proven with direct observation via minimally invasive (same day/outpatient) laparoscopic surgery or—better—using robotic laparoscopy, so that the best techniques of endometriosis excision can be carried out with the need for a subsequent surgery. But most of all, don’t let any of these dozen warnings slide, because it is a time-sensitive and urgent matter that can cause insurmountable problems later; that is, conquer them now!