Endometriosis Pain Relief: Diagnosis and Treatment of Symptoms
Endometriosis can make life miserable. There are many women suffering from endometriosis and trying to manage the pain in order to get on with their daily lives.
However, the pain can be so severe that some women end up bedridden during certain points in their menstrual cycle or during ovulation.
Perhaps you’re wondering if you have endometriosis or maybe you’ve been diagnosed and now you’re looking for forms of endometriosis pain relief. Here are a few things you need to know about the condition and how to look after yourself.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue much like the tissue that lines the womb grows in other parts of the body. Most commonly, this tissue grows around the ovaries, fallopian tubes and around the pelvis. However, it can spread to other areas of the body too.
This endometrial-like tissue acts in the same way the uterus tissue would. It thickens and breaks down during a monthly cycle, turning to blood. The problem is, this tissue has no way of exiting the body the way a normal period would.
If the tissue surrounds the ovaries, it can cause cysts called endometriomas. Unlike common cysts, which present themselves as a clear liquid on ultrasound scans, these cysts appear darker and more solid, which is why they’re often referred to as ‘chocolate cysts’.
In some cases, the growth of this tissue can make organs stick together and may cause scar tissue. The condition is considered to be extremely painful at times and can result in infertility issues.
What Are the Symptoms?
The most obvious symptom of endometriosis is pain during a menstrual cycle. However, many women often believe a higher level of pain is normal during a period so it can take years to get diagnosed with endometriosis.
Some of the symptoms that can accompany pain include:
- Pain during sex. Women with endometriosis may feel uncomfortable during sex or experience spotting after sex.
- Painful bowel movements. This is most likely to happen during the time of your period.
- Heavy bleeding. Again, many women just accept this as the norm. However, if your period stops you from doing anything you normally would, you’re afraid to wear light-colored clothes or you need to change your sanitary pad more than every two hours, it’s a good indication that your period is heavier than normal.
- Infertility. Many women aren’t aware they have endometriosis until they start infertility investigations.
- Fatigue and Nausea. These symptoms often present themselves during the menstrual cycle or around ovulation. You may also experience diarrhea, constipation or bloating.
The symptoms of endometriosis can be so vague that many women are often diagnosed with different conditions, like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) before endometriosis is found.
There are a number of ways a doctor could diagnose endometriosis. However, it can be difficult to spot, so it may take longer than necessary to get a clear diagnosis. Firstly, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam, searching for any obvious abnormalities or cysts.
Secondly, your doctor can do a transvaginal ultrasound. This is where a transducer is inserted into the vagina and ultrasound images are projected to a screen. If endometriomas are present, it makes it easier to diagnose endometriosis.
However, many women don’t form endometriomas so it can take further investigation to get a diagnosis. The next step would be to perform an MRI. An MRI can give your doctor detailed images of your organs and tissues.
This can indicate whether you have endometriosis and the size of the tissue growths. The last option is a laparoscopy. A laparoscopy involves being referred to a surgeon who can perform a procedure that allows him to view your abdomen.
A small incision will be made near your navel and a laparoscope is inserted so your doctor can view any endometrial implants.
Treating endometriosis can range from pain management to surgery. The pain relief you decide upon will depend on the severity of your condition and whether you plan on becoming pregnant in the future.
Your doctor may only recommend surgery as a last resort if all other treatments have failed. The first step is to use anti-inflammatory pain killers, like ibuprofen, to ease the pain during the time of your period.
If you aren’t planning on starting a family any time soon, you may be offered hormone therapy. This can include anything from hormonal contraceptives to gonadotrophin-releasing hormones.
Gonadotrophin can create artificial menopause which stops the endometrial tissue from growing and therefore causing pain and other side effects. However, these hormone therapies are often temporary solutions and problems can reoccur if treatment is stopped.
Surgery is often a good option if you’re trying to become pregnant. A surgeon will be able to see the extent of the problem in detail and remove any endometrial tissue to increase the chances of pregnancy.
However, if tissue needs to removed from the ovaries, there is always the risk that removing will cause scar tissue or deplete the number of available eggs. It’s a risk you need to discuss with your doctor beforehand.
Finding Your Endometriosis Pain Relief
Finding the best endometriosis pain relief for you could take time and effort. It’s important to listen to your body, along with your doctor’s advice to find something that works for you.