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Is it period cramps or endometriosis? Don’t ignore the signs

Women often misunderstand endometriosis as period cramps, and leads to problems. Here's why you should never ignore the signs of endometriosis.
signs of endometriosis
Don't ignore the signs of endometriosis. Image courtesy: Adobe stock
Dr Bijoy Nayak Updated: 22 Jun 2023, 11:00 pm IST
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Gynaecological disorders encompass a range of conditions that affect women worldwide. These disorders include pelvic pain, menstrual disorders, cervical cancer, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis, among others. Endometriosis is one of the most prevalent conditions that affect approximately 10 percent of women globally, according to the WHO. However, it is often misinterpreted by women as period cramps.

Over 190 million women experience severe, life-altering pain, bowel irregularities, heavy menstrual bleeding, and fertility challenges due to endometriosis. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications. The progressive nature of endometriosis can cause damage to the fallopian tubes and bowels, as well as the formation of ovarian cysts, increasing the risk of other potentially fatal comorbidities.

Understanding endometriosis

Endometriosis is characterised by the abnormal growth of uterine-like tissue outside the uterus, commonly found in areas such as the ovaries, bowel, and pelvis. In these regions, where tissue shedding does not occur as it should, the trapped blood in the pelvic area leads to excruciating pain for women and presents additional challenges.

Misdiagnosis of endometriosis
Misdiagnosis of endometriosis can lead to problems!. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Don’t ignore signs of endometriosis

The intense pain that comes with endometriosis should be a giveaway of the risk of the condition, but many women tend to misunderstand this pain as period cramps and therefore do not go for their endometriosis screening. This leads to the disease being undiagnosed for years and the condition worsening over time, causing heightened symptoms.

Also Read: Reduce your endometriosis pain with these 6 hacks

If there is carelessness in the management of this progressive disease, it can have dangerous implications for gynaecological health. Moreover, endometriosis showcases a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) in women as well. This poses a greater risk for women who may already have prior heart conditions. Therefore, people should be more aware of the risk and causes of endometriosis, and in no case should they ignore the symptoms or delay diagnosis when it comes to their gynaecological health, as this disease poses a great risk to the body.

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He further stated that this dangerous disease can be prevented by understanding its symptoms and causes. With this, women will be better equipped to understand the risk of this disease and get tested and treated on time.

What causes endometriosis?

Endometriosis can occur due to multiple reasons, which include:

1. Retrograde menstruation

In this, the menstrual blood flows back into the fallopian tubes and out to the outline of the uterus and the pelvic region. As there is no process of blood release from there, the blood and tissue get stuck in the pelvic region. This tissue becomes larger and larger during cycles, greatly affecting the health of the woman.

2. Hormonal factors

There can be endometrial growth in the pelvic region due to hormone imbalance or the production of excess oestrogen in the body. It can also occur due to certain autoimmune factors.

Also Read: 5 tips to balance hormones naturally in women

3. Post-surgery complication

Sometimes endometrial cells can stick and develop in the surgical incision area post-surgery.

4. Genetics

Endometriosis is also genetic and can run in families. Therefore, people at high risk of the disease must adhere to the requirement of routine health checks.

Signs and symptoms of endometriosis

The common symptoms associated with endometriosis are:

  • Intense pain during periods
  • Menstrual cramps that last for weeks
  • Difficulty and discomfort in bowel movements
  • Lower back pain that may come and go around periods
  • Pain during sexual activity
  • Infertility issues

These symptoms are not confined to the disease of endometriosis but their presence is a sign that the women must go for a gynaecological consultation and tests like a pelvic examination, ultrasound, MRI, or any other test that their medical expert advises for an accurate diagnosis of the condition.

Misdiagnosis of endometriosis
Misdiagnosis of endometriosis can lead to problems! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Treatment of endometriosis

If the results of these tests come out as a reason for concern, the doctor will suggest a round of treatments. These include:

  • First and foremost, the woman is provided with medication to alleviate her intense symptoms of pain, heavy bleeding, and others.
  • Hormone therapy to efficiently treat the disease from the root of its cause
  • Giving contraceptives reduces the development of the monthly growth of uterine tissue. It decreases fertility in women for the time being and prevents the build-up of endometrial tissue in risky areas.
  • Endometrial tissue can be surgically removed using laparoscopy. It is a minimally invasive procedure that can be used to both diagnose and treat endometriosis. In recent times, lasers have been used to remove this out-of-place tissue growth in the pelvic region.

People living with endometriosis can effectively manage the symptoms with these treatment options. Effective recovery also depends on the proactive steps taken by the patient in noticing the symptoms, getting diagnosed early, following all medicine routines, and going for surgery, if needed, on time. If these factors are taken care of, the risk of endometriosis reduces significantly.

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About the Author

Dr Bijoy Nayak, Head and Consultant, Minimal Access and Robotic Gynecologic Surgeries, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, New Delhi. ...Read More

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