Common symptoms and misconceptions about a disease that affects millions of women.

14 02 endometrosis awareness month

March is endometriosis awareness month, so what better time to dispel some myths and misconceptions surrounding the disease.

Endometriosis is not easy to understand, since symptoms often vary greatly from woman to woman. What we do know: endometriosis can affect women of any ethnicity, from the onset of the menstrual cycle to menopause. The disease is characterized when the endometrial stroma and glands, that should only be found in the uterus, are planted elsewhere in the body. Typically the tissue gets displaced around the pelvic region—the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic side walls—which attributes to the severe pelvic pain that women with endometriosis often suffer from. In some rare cases, tissue has been found in caesarian-section scars, on the bladder or on the intestines. When these women are menstruating, this tissue still sheds, but is trapped in the body.

Symptoms and Misconceptions about Endometriosis:

The most common symptom of endometriosis is extreme pelvic pain, which makes diagnosis very difficult since we all experience pain differently, with varied tolerance and thresholds. Pain can be a typical part of our menstrual cycles; however when the pain beings to interfere with our daily interactions such as going to work, walking and driving, visit your doctor.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the disease is that women with endometriosis are automatically infertile. Endometriosis and infertility are actually not directly linked—occasionally, if misplaced tissue builds on the fallopian tubes, the tubes can change their shape, becoming narrower, which makes it difficult for the egg to travel towards the uterus. Also, if the tissue is planted on the pelvic wall, the pelvic wall becomes inflamed, pressing on our fallopian tubes with the same result. Since these are two of the most common areas for excessive tissue to build up, it is estimated that thirty to fourty per cent of women may not be able to conceive. While this is one possible explanation, there are still many elements of the disease that are unknown and links between the disease and infertility are still unclear.

Endometriosis Treatments:

Hormonal treatments are often used to manage the symptoms of endometriosis, however they cannot cure it. Birth control pills and progestins can ease pain and inflammation, but when not taken regularly, these symptoms resurface. Currently, the only treatment method is surgery, which is treated on a case-by-case basis.

Endometriosis Support Networks:

There are many support networks available to people affected by endometriosis. The popular Endosisterhood website has now joined the Endometriosis Network Canada, where users can register to access forums and various support groups across the country. Raising awareness for this disease will allow us to one day find a cure, but also make known to others what millions of women endure daily and show our support for those affected by it.