Painful periods. Difficulty conceiving. These are just a few of the symptoms caused by endometriosis, a chronic disease that affects millions of women worldwide. It occurs when endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, is found in places where it shouldn’t be – namely, outside the uterus. Most commonly found in the abdomen and pelvic cavity, endometrial cells can wander as far as the arms, thighs, lungs and other areas.
Most women are no stranger to discomfort – mood swings, bloating, mild cramps – during menstruation, but that time of the month can be particularly painful for women with endometriosis. For some, it can even affect their daily routine. Mark D. Johnson, M.D., Reproductive Endocrinologist at Arizona Associates for Reproductive Health, shares the five signs of endometriosis that are often mistaken for something else, and discusses how this condition can affect fertility.
Sign #1: Seriously Painful Periods
Seriously painful periods are not always caused by uterine fibroids. For many women, endometriosis causes severe and at times incapacitating, menstrual pain. The cause of endometriosis is unclear, but early diagnosis is key to successfully managing and treating the disease. Laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure, can pinpoint the growths’ size and location, which can provide valuable information in terms of determining a treatment plan.
If you suspect you may have endometriosis, schedule an appointment at Arizona Associates for Reproductive Health in Scottsdale, AZ to meet with a physician and discuss your options.
Sign #2: Gastrointestinal Distress
A fellow chronic condition, irritable bowel syndrome, is characterized by many of the symptoms found in those with endometriosis. Cramping, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation are shared symptoms. Women with endometriosis notice that these symptoms are markedly worse when they have their period, which could mean endometrial cells are somewhere in the GI tract.
Sign #3: Frequent Urination
Running to the bathroom constantly, or the feeling of having to go, is often associated with urinary tract infections. Endometrial lesions on the bladder can cause the same feelings during your menstrual cycle. If your trips to the bathroom increase during your period, be sure to get checked out. Mark D. Johnson, M.D., Reproductive Endocrinologist at Arizona Associates for Reproductive Health, can help you determine which condition is causing your discomfort.
Sign #4: Pain + Increased Bleeding
Both of these symptoms are often associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection usually caused by untreated sexually transmitted diseases. However, women with endometriosis also frequently experience them. Intense pain during menstruation and very heavy periods, sometimes with clots, are a result of the endometrial growths reacting to hormones your ovaries produce during menses.
Sign #5: Breathing Discomfort
Surprisingly, painful respiration, often mistaken for pneumonia, can be a symptom of endometriosis. As mentioned earlier, endometrial cells often don’t stay where they’re supposed to…they can travel throughout the body. When they make their home in a woman’s diaphragm, they can cause painful breathing and intense discomfort when trying to move the upper body or upper arms during menstruation.
Another condition associated with endometriosis is infertility. If endometrial lesions are located in the fallopian tubes, it can make it difficult for a man’s sperm to connect with a woman’s egg. Even in cases where there is little or no scarring in the fallopian tubes, endometriosis can make conception challenging. A woman typically has a 20% chance of conceiving each month, endometriosis may make that 20% drop as low as 10%.
Knowledge is power. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned each month during your period, we encourage you to contact Mark D. Johnson, M.D., Reproductive Endocrinologist at Arizona Associates for Reproductive Health, to be tested for endometriosis. A quick, relatively easy and painful process.