The Endo Series
Table of Contents
Let me just start this off by saying:
- YOU’RE NOT JUST COMPLAINING,
- IT’S NOT JUST A BAD PERIOD, and
- I UNDERSTAND YOUR PAIN
I want to talk about something that is as unknown, as it is common. 1 out of every 10 women of reproductive age exude, to some extent, symptoms of the chronic disease, Endometriosis (endo). That’s approximately 176 million women worldwide. And out of them, less than half will actually be diagnosed by their gyno or doctor with the disease.
THIS IS NOT OKAY.
Endometriosis can be an extremely debilitating disease for those who are affected by it and yet, it goes undiagnosed and untreated for years. So many of us women may unknowingly have endo, so we don’t have access to the proper treatment and care.
The path to understanding endo and getting the right treatment for you is a treacherous one; but, you can get off on the right foot by educating yourself about it. Which is why I’m so glad you’re here!
A Little Disclaimer…
Stating the obvious here but, I’m not a doctor so you should still speak with a trusted gynecologist about endometriosis if you think you may have the disease. But, everything I’m sharing with you today comes from a place of experience and lots of trial and error.
Conventional medicine has failed in helping me treat my endo and in many cases, it’s only worsened or brought on other ailments. Myself and many other women have turned to alternative methods of self-treatment for endo. Trust me, you will find yourself trying tons of different ways to ease it’s symptoms and you’ll want to pull your hair out when you discover half of them don’t work.
But please don’t give up hope! I know how painful and frustrating this disease can be. But after reading this, I hope you can learn from my mistakes and configure your own treatment. When you live with a chronic illness, you have to be patient with your body. Give yourself time to find the best treatment plan for you.
What Is Endometriosis?
Essentially, endometriosis is a chronic, incurable inflammatory disease that occurs when tissue that grows inside the lining of your uterus – called endometrium – begins to grow in other areas of the body.
The abnormal endometrial growth (lesions) are vine-like in structure and cling to surrounding organs like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowels, and sometimes even the bladder and lungs.
The endometrium still behaves as it normally would despite being outside of the uterus. During menses (your period), the endometrium that lines the walls of your uterus begins to break down and is flushed from the body.
The displaced endo tissue also breaks down, but with nowhere for that blood to be flushed out. This leads to chronic pain, inflammation, and scarring in those areas. And that’s what makes this disease so difficult to live with.
Causes of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is still a complete mystery to the medical world. Since it’s discovery in 1840, doctors have struggled to find the root cause of the disease. However, studies have shown that some factors can place you at a higher risk for endometriosis.
Genetics play a huge role. If someone in your intermediate family (mom, sister, aunt) has the disease, it’s very likely that you will also face some of the symptoms.
Another cause of endometriosis is retrograde menstruation. This happens when the endometrium flows backward into the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity instead of out through the vagina. Experts say this may be why the lesions of endometrium can be found outside the uterus.
But these are all based in speculation and there’s not enough evidence to support that there is one single cause of endometriosis.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Many symptoms of endometriosis can be mistaken for symptoms of other ailments. But those with endo, describe their pain as more intense than usual.
The most common of those symptoms are:
- extremely painful (or disabling) menstrual cramps
- lower back, intestinal and pelvic pain
- pain during or after sex
- intestinal pain
- painful bowel movements or painful urination during and between menstrual periods
- heavy menstrual periods, or spotting or bleeding between periods
Pain may be the most prevalent of all the symptoms but, do not confuse this with the severity of the disease. Pain is subjective and is only a part of the diagnosis process. The patches of tissue are grown spontaneously and there’s no telling where it will latch onto.
Some areas are more sensitive than others and some endometrial tissue can grow nerves which results in additional pain. But this can occur years into having the disease or even when it is just starting out. Which is why a proper diagnosis by a gynecologist is the only way to truly determine if you have endometriosis.
THE ONLY WAY TO OFFICIALLY DIAGNOSE ENDOMETRIOSIS IS THROUGH LAPAROSCOPY!!
No matter WHAT the doctors tell you about endo, a laparoscopy is the only surefire way to diagnose the disease. This is a surgical process in which a fiber-optic instrument is inserted through the abdominal wall to view the organs in the abdomen.
Please take it from me. I was lied to, laughed at, no one believed me when I would go to the emergency room crying from pain, nausea, and disorientation. They performed countless MRIs, ultrasounds (internal and external), and CT scans, and the results always came up negative. Only a single fibroid. I was exposed to thousands of units of radiation which is extremely dangerous, but I was just following doctor’s orders.
Don’t be like me. Getting diagnosed was extremely depressing, frustrating, and took YEARS. 10 years in fact. Going back and forth to hospitals, becoming a lab rat, being hospitalized, calling off work for being in so much pain, losing close relationships, losing jobs, people thinking you’re full of shit. It was a complete NIGHTMARE. You truly don’t realize how much the disease takes over your life until you start healing yourself again. But I digress.