March is officially Endometriosis Awareness Month. Marcie Cheers investigates what it is and what it is like for so many women living with the crippling disease.
“But you don’t look sick”, everyone would say to me- meanwhile, I would be doubled over in pain – a kind of pain I had never experienced before. Unable to stand up, lay down or walk, I just thought pain like this was normal for girls. It wasn’t until I saw a doctor about my excruciating pain, that I found out just how serious it was, when he told me it was very likely I had endometriosis
Despite 1 out of 10 Australian women currently living with endometriosis, the crippling disease is extremely hard to diagnose, with the average diagnosis taking 7.5 years. But what is endometriosis and how is it different from just experiencing a painful period? As the month of March is officially Endometriosis awareness month, here are some facts you may not know about what so many women around the world are experiencing.
Warning: Please do not self-diagnose. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see a doctor.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue or lining of the uterus, grows on the outside of the womb – commonly found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the bowel. Think of it like vines attaching and gluing themselves to your organs and getting trapped inside your body with nowhere to go when they die- as you might imagine, the disease is extremely painful and at times debilitating.
Regardless of extensive research, it is still unclear exactly what causes endo to occur in the body, and why it can return after it is removed. However, it is hoped with raised awareness and more funds put into research, that medical professionals can find some answers soon.
What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms associated with endometriosis, but it is also common for people to live with endo and not experience any of them – making diagnosis very tricky at times. Some of the most common symptoms include;
- Extreme pain before and after periods
- Reduced fertility
- Pelvic pain
- And many more
Why is it so hard to diagnose?
Although many women have been diagnosed with endo, there are still many more around the world who have not yet been diagnosed because of the extreme difficulty in finding it.
(Yak wishes to advise that we are not trained medical professionals and the following information has been found online as well as through personal experiences).
According to Endometriosis Australia’s official website, an official diagnosis can only be given after a patient undergoes a laparoscopy – a process performed under a general anaesthetic where a sort of camera goes inside the patient’s stomach to closely look at tissue. An ‘unofficial’ diagnosis can be made by the doctor feeling for tissue, seeing cysts or recalling your symptoms. However, an official diagnosis must be through laparoscopy.
Endo can also be very difficult to diagnose as sometimes, it does not show up during internal examinations.
On average, it can take 7 and a half years to be officially diagnosed.
How can pain be managed?
One of the hardest things about living with endo is that quite often, even the heaviest of pain medications do not take away any of the pain.
It is almost very important to note that, the pain medication that works for one person, may not work for another and everyone reacts differently. Most commonly, Panadol, Nurofen and other over the counter pain relief medications can be taken to help reduce some of the pain.
Other medical treatments can include the contraceptive pill and the rod – which can be prescribed by a doctor.
Is there a cure?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis, and despite surgeries to remove it, quite often the tissue can return and reform.
Endometriosis awareness month is a great chance to educate yourself about the horrible disease and what can be done to treat it. If you, unfortunately, live with the disease, or you want to be further educated about it, there are many different support groups and events happening around the country this month including;
To all those out there living with the disease, from a fellow Yak girl, know you are not alone, and together we can finally find a cure for endo!