With Endometriosis Awareness Month well underway, we decided it’s worth unpacking a few of the major signs and symptoms of the condition – especially considering the masses of people who go undiagnosed, not to mention the long journey through debilitating pain to finally receive a diagnosis.
1 in 9 Australian women are living with endometriosis, along with a number of trans and gender diverse people – one thing that all sufferers have in common is the obstacle course standing in the way of getting a diagnosis, from dealing with misdiagnoses to the normalisation of extreme menstrual pain.
Research suggests around 10–15% of all women may have endometriosis, significantly reducing their quality of life. Unfortunately, it can take between 4 and 11 years for people to receive their diagnosis, with up to 6 in 10 cases left undiagnosed.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that involves the growth of cells similar to those found in the uterus’ lining start to grow in other areas of the pelvis – this can include the bowel, bladder and ovaries. Though the cause of the condition hasn’t been pinned down yet, there are a number of contributing factors associated with endometriosis. Those who have a family history of the disorder are particularly at risk, with research clocking that increased risk in at around 10 times higher than the rest of the population. Take a look at the most common contributing factors.
- Being a twin
- Having a history of heavy periods
- Having a history of periods that last longer than five days
- Having the first period before the age of 11
- Low body fat
Let’s take a dive into some of the most common symptoms associated with endometriosis.
Abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of endometriosis – it may be dull or sharp, and for some it feels like severe period cramps and is known to worsen with time. But many sufferers find their pain spreads further out throughout the body, which brings us to the next common symptom:
Because endometriosis can cause cells similar to those in the uterine lining to grow outside the uterus, the nearby pelvic area is one of the most commonly affected. The disease can also result in bleeding into the pelvic region, along with swelling and growths that can lead to scar tissue building up and the blocking of fallopian tubes. This then results in debilitating pain, along with fertility issues. Many find the pain so severe that over-the-counter medication makes little to no difference.
If you’re dealing with severe back pain, you or your doctor might run through a list of other causes before considering endometriosis – and symptoms like this are one of the reasons the condition often goes undiagnosed, but it’s worth noting that back pain is surprisingly common with endometriosis. This is because the endometrial cells can attach to your lower back, leading many to experience sciatic pain. The kind of back pain associated with endometriosis is often felt deep in the body, so seeking out therapies that may assist other kinds of back pain may not be effective here.
When the endometrial cells grow around the sciatic nerve, many people feel leg pain that is described as a sudden sharp pain or twinge, a cramping feeling or a dull throbbing. It can result in pain or difficulty walking or even standing.
Painful urination and bowel movements
Endometrial cells can also attach to the space between the vagina and bowels – also known as rectovaginal endometriosis – can result in anything from painful urination to diarrhoea and painful bowel movements. It’s often described as a sharp pain, with an inflammatory diet believed to worsen the pain – this includes foods rich in added sugars, preservatives and trans fat.
Here are a few more to take note of and report to your doctor:
- Bleeding between periods
- Severe bloating
- Rectal pain
- Fertility issues
- Pain during intercourse
- Heavy bleeding
- Brain fog
- Ovarian cysts
This is not an exhaustive list – there are so many signs and symptoms of endometriosis covering numerous areas and body parts, and different people may notice their own unique experiences associated with their condition. Why? Because endometriosis can be found in every organ in the body, resulting in anything from physical to mental health symptoms, and they don’t only affect people during the menstrual phase – they can happen any time, thereby contributing further to the debilitating nature of the disease. Head on over to Endometriosis Australia for more information on the condition and how to support its research and treatment.
It's also worth noting that high-sugar diets can contribute to inflammation and worsen the severity of symptoms of endometriosis. If you've been struggling with a sugar addiction, don't hesitate to join us for the 8-Week Program to get your life, and your health, back. Sign up here.