All About Endometriosis Awareness Month
Millions of women suffer in silence every year from a disease called endometriosis. Most of the time, it goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years until it’s accurately treated for what it is. Women with this disease might “look healthy” from the outside, and they become quite skilled in covering well when they’re in severe pain.
Women with endometriosis often fear they won’t be believed when they talk to medical professionals about their pain, or they’ll be told it’s all in their heads. What’s more, women who suffer from this disease often miss school and work, and have relationship struggles because of the severe effects of the illness.
Endometriosis is a dramatically misunderstood and underresearched disease that impacts women not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and socially, too. March is Endometriosis Awareness Month — a month to talk about, grow awareness, advocate for research, and offer support for those suffering from endometriosis.
What is Endometriosis?
There is still so much that is unknown about this disease. Many times, “endo” as it is often called goes undiagnosed because women are given hormonal birth control for painful periods, the main endo symptom. Endometriosis.org defines the disease as when “tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found elsewhere in the body.” It can be found on other organs like the ovaries, pelvic wall, bladder, bowel, and more.
Symptoms vary but most often include pelvic pain, either with periods or constantly. This is debilitating pain that causes women to miss school and work. Fatigue, heavy periods, and infertility are also signs of endometriosis.
How It’s Treated
Unfortunately, the first line treatment for painful periods is most often hormonal birth control. Not only is contraception harmful for the many chemicals and potential carcinogens it contains, but it suppresses a woman’s natural fertility and doesn’t get to the root cause of severe pelvic pain and other related symptoms. This is one reason endometriosis goes undiagnosed for an average of 7 or 8 years.
There is no finite cure for endometriosis, but it can be successfully surgically removed. Excision is the gold standard for treatment. Many women see dramatic improvements in symptoms with a low rate of recurrence. This should not, however, be confused with ablation, which is not as effective as excision as it doesn’t completely remove the endo that is present. Not all surgeons are qualified to do excision surgery. It requires special training so it’s important to find a doctor who truy understands this disease.
The Role of Fertility Awareness
Charting your cycle can help you and a trained doctor determine if endometriosis might be a cause for your symptoms. Charting can help you determine hormonal imbalances and other problems with your cycle. The only way to diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery, but fertility awareness empowers you to understand your body and take steps to addressing the root cause of health issues.
Endometriosis is a Difficult Disease
Ultimately, endo is a truly difficult disease that exacts a toll from the women who suffer from it. This month, let’s learn about this disease and offer support to those working to learn more about it, and support those who continue to suffer from it.
For more information about the diagnosis and treatment of Endometriosis, watch our Guiding Star Educational Webinar by Women’s Health practitioner, Teresa Kenney.