Endometriosis is a *literal* pain—both physically and mentally. It can take a long time to be diagnosed, and managing the condition is complex. Here, our team of doctors breaks down the basics to help you advocate for yourself sooner.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial-like tissue is present in the pelvis (outside the uterus), and sometimes in other areas of the body. The most common theory of origin of endometriosis (the Sampson Theory a.k.a., Retrograde Menstruation Theory) is that endometrial tissue sheds from the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) during menstruation and cramping transports the tissue up through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis, where it implants and behaves differently than it does in the endometrium. Usually, it just gets absorbed, but for some people—and doctors don’t know why—it invades the bladder, ovaries, intestines, etc. (Of course, there are other theories to where the endometrial-like tissue in the pelvis might originate from, too.)
How common is endometriosis?
Endometriosis affects approximately 10 percent of women and adults with uteruses. That makes it one of the most common gynecological conditions. And 30 to 50 percent of adults with endometriosis struggle with infertility.
Is endometriosis painful?
Endometriosis can be extremely painful. Hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle cause the excess tissue to thicken then breakdown—just like the lining itself, except this tissue is trapped. The trapped tissue can lead to irritation, scarring, severe pain and fertility challenges.
What supplements can help endometriosis?
In addition to medical treatment (more on that below!), published research points to the benefits of using supplements to support endometriosis care. Here are a few science-backed nutrients to add to your routine and how they help:
- Omega-3: Helps decrease the incidence of endometriosis
- Melatonin: Helps reduce pain related to endometriosis
- Resveratrol: Also helps reduce pain related to endometriosis
- Curcumin: Helps prevent the progression of endo and can even promote regression
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC): Also helps prevent the progression of endo and can even promote regression
Find Omega-3, Resveratrol and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) in The Power Prenatal for females.
How does endometriosis affect fertility?
There’s a lack of consensus on this in the medical community. Though some people with endometriosis will have no problems getting pregnant, there remains the 30 to 50 percent of adults with endometriosis who deal with infertility.
This could be because the condition negatively affects egg quality or implantation, or because the scarring it can cause in the fallopian tubes may prevent egg and sperm from meeting. If you’re concerned that endometriosis may impact your fertility, it’s worth having a conversation with a doctor to learn more about treatment options.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Unfortunately, it takes an average of seven to 10 years to reach a diagnosis. The most accurate way to diagnose endometriosis is through a laparoscopy, which is a type of minimally invasive surgery. Doctors will also look for signs and symptoms such as painful periods and ovulation, and even a certain blood marker called CA-125. More recently, doctors have been using ultrasound technology to help diagnose endometriosis.
How is endometriosis treated?
Medical treatment for endometriosis typically falls into two categories.
- Laparoscopic surgery can be used to remove the endometrial areas themselves.
- Hormonal medications can be used to suppress the endometriosis.
Additionally, because endometriosis is a progesterone-resistant state, some doctors will also increase progesterone support. You can also learn more about how to manage endometriosis with dietary changes.
If you’re experiencing pain, don’t wait to talk to your doctor. Endometriosis is often missed or misdiagnosed, so advocating for yourself can make all the difference.