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. It is most commonly found in the abdomen and pelvic cavity.
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 affect their daily routine. Reproductive Endocrinologist of Utah Fertility Center, Dr. Shawn Gurtcheff, shares five symptoms of endometriosis that are often mistaken for something else, and discusses how this condition can affect fertility.
Sign #1: Seriously Painful Periods
Uterine fibroids are not the only cause of painful periods. For many women, endometriosis causes severe and at times incapacitating menstrual pain. The cause of endometriosis is unclear, but there seem to be genetic, hormonal, immune, and possibly environmental factors. Early diagnosis is key to successfully managing and treating the disease. Diagnosis can typically be made by review of clinical symptoms. For a more definitive diagnosis, laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure, can confirm the presence of endometrial cells outside of the uterus. Surgery also allows visible endometrial growths and scar tissue to be removed, which may relieve endometriosis pain and sometimes improve fertility.
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 discuss this with your physician.
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. Endometrial cells don’t stay where they’re supposed to…and rarely 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 us to be evaluated for endometriosis. Call 801-785-5100 or fill out our contact form https://www.utahfertility.com/contact-us-salt-lake-city-utah-infertility/.