Most of us women have had painful and uncomfortable periods in our lives. However, for some women, menses can be hell and can make one miss out on important things like a school day or a workday.
So, what is this painful disorder?
It is called ‘Endometriosis’ (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis).
The Mayo Clinic defines endometriosis as “when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis.”
They further state: “With endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions — abnormal bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other.”
How do I know if I have endometriosis?
The Endometriosis Foundation lists down the following symptoms of endometriosis. (Note: Not every woman experiences the same symptoms):
- Periods that are longer than normal: Usually, most women go through periods that last 3 to 5 days – sometimes 7. But those with endometriosis often have longer periods and can multiple periods in a month.
- Very painful cramps: As if normal period cramps are not already painful as they are, those with endometriosis have more painful ones, which can be almost debilitating. The pain sits at the lower stomach, pelvis or lower back and usually cannot be relieved by painkiller such as Tylenol.
- Problems with one’s bowels and urinary system: For some women with endometriosis, they can go through constipation, painful urination or bowel movements and diarrhea. They can also feel nausea, vomiting, bloating and gassiness.
- Heavy menstrual flow: This causes affected women to change their tampons/pads every 1-2 hours.
- Fatigue: The disorder leaves one tired.
- Pain during sex: This can cause women to feel uncomfortable and fearful of having sex.
- Infertility: The build-up of endometria scar tissues and lesions decreases the chances of fertilization to occur. Endometriosis is linked to 1/3 of infertility cases.
What should I do if I think I have endometriosis?
Treatments vary from surgical to non-surgical. Note that you need to discuss with your doctor to choose the right plan, and he/she has the responsibility to explain the pros and cons of each plan.
If you decide to go through the surgical route, the Endometriosis Foundation recommends the following treatment:
- Laparoscopic Excision Surgery
The best treatment for endometriosis and is often regarded as the “gold standard”. It provides long-term relief from symptoms, help correct pelvic abnormalities, and may even improve fertility. Visit this page for more information.
There are more options under the non-surgical route, and these include:
● Hormone Therapies
- GnRH-A (Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone Agonists) is a group of drugs such as Lupron®, Zoladex®, Synarel® and Suprefact®. The therapy is widely used to decrease the size of endometriosis implants, which relieves pain.
- Aromatase Inhibitors (AIs) suppresses estrogen levels in the ovaries as well as fat tissues and possibly even within the endometriosis implants. AIs are recommended to be used with add-back medications. There are several types of AIs- Anastrozole® and Letrozole®
- Progestin Therapy artificially creates the progesterone hormone. Progestin will help to shrink endometriosis lesions and reduce pain. There are 3 types of progestin therapy- oral, injection, and intrauterine device (IUD).
- Oral Contraceptives are helpful because they are usually affordable. There are 2 types of oral contraceptives- continuous/extended oral contraceptives and cyclic oral contraceptives. Continuous/extended oral contraceptives have an extended number of active pills or no inactive pills. Cyclic oral contraceptives have a certain number of active and inactive pills.
- Painkillers such as aspirin, Tylenol, and narcotic pain medications like Codeine, Vicodin and Percocet.
- The proper diet and nutrition can help in managing one’s symptoms. Many people with endometriosis have food allergies like gluten and lactose so avoiding certain foods, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, and exercising, may lead to an improvement in hormonal balance and deficiencies.
- Alternative therapies. These include herbal medicines, acupuncture, exercise, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), shiatsu, biofeedback, homeopathic therapy, osteopathy, and naturopathy.
Endometriosis Foundation: https://www.endofound.org
Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw101914
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Muslim World Today.