Girls Stuff – What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium, the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, decides to appear and grow in other locations throughout the body, usually around the uterus/abdomen area. These endometrium cells respond to the normal hormones that bring about menstruation and so they bleed, wherever they are, causing inflammation, pain and other symptoms. When they heal each month they can adhere to other tissues, creating scarring and glueing other organs and structures together. In my case, for example, my bladder was adhered to my uterus, stretching my bladder all out of place and causing me to need to pee frequently in cold weather and whenever I would exercise! The symptoms of what I ‘fondly’ call ‘Endo’ include:

  • Painful and/or heavy periods*
  • Pelvic, abdominal, back and hip pain
  • PMS
  • Painful sex*
  • Painful ovulation*
  • Constipation and other bowel symptoms*
  • Frequent urination and other bladder symptoms*
  • Reduced fertility
  • Depression, lethargy and/or feeling of being unwell
  • Bloating*

(The symptoms with a ‘*’ symbol are the ones I have experienced as a result of my Endo) No one knows what causes Endometriosis although there are some hypotheses around. There is no prevention or definitive ‘cure’ as such but it can be treated/managed to an extent through medication, surgery, diet, exercise and natural therapies.

Diagnosis is difficult and usually obtained by a combination of gynaecological examination, ultrasound and exploratory laparoscopic surgery. I had mine treated with laparoscopic surgery this year and have seen some alleviation of symptoms but not completely. It is hard to know though whether my symptoms stem from the Endo or from the fact that I have Polycystic Kidney Disease and food intolerances. My surgeon reported that my Endometriosis was extensive though and that my bladder was adhered to my uterus and all stretched out of shape. This likely contributed to my unfortunate condition of needing to pee pretty frequently and almost always without fail a few minutes into any form of exercise even if I have already been before hand (I have earned a reputation for this and it is a source of amusement to my friends but VERY inconvenient for a triathlete). Thankfully the surgery has relieved this somewhat so it is not as severe and frequent anymore!

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