Endometriosis is a common disorder of the female reproductive organs, affecting more than 11 percent of women in their reproductive age. It happens when the tissue that lines the uterus (the endometrium) develops outside of the uterus, and it becomes attached to other organs of your body.
Endometriosis usually occurs around the pelvic area or in the abdominal cavity, such as the ovaries, uterus, or intestines. Understandably, this can be extremely painful for women, especially during their menstrual period. Endometriosis can even expand to the lungs or brain, although that’s extremely rare.
What Does the Endometrium Do?
An endometrium grows in a woman’s uterus during every menstrual cycle to prepare the uterus for a potential pregnancy. If the woman does not become pregnant during that timeframe, the endometrium is shed as the menstrual period.
Where Can Endometriosis Cause Pain?
Endometriosis pain might feel like extremely painful period cramps, but the pain can be felt at any time. Usually, you can feel it in many different areas of your body, depending on your activities and lifestyle.
The areas surrounding the uterus, such as your pelvis, abdomen, and reproductive organs, are the nearest and therefore most vulnerable to developing endometriosis. Women with endometriosis can also experience extreme back pain, due to the cells sticking to the lower back. This can often lead to sciatic pain, making the experience doubly painful.
If these endometrial cells grow on or around your sciatic nerve, it can also cause leg pain. It can feel like a leg cramp or a sharp stab. When the pain is severe, some women are unable to walk or stand comfortably.
Certain life activities can also be painful with endometriosis. During sexual intercourse, women can experience sharp vaginal or abdominal pains. This happens when the endometrial tissue becomes scar tissue and forms painful nodules in the uterus, cervix, or pelvic cavities.
When endometrial cells grow in the area around your vagina and your bowels, it can cause painful bowel movements, irritable bowels, or diarrhea.
Endometriosis can also be emotionally painful for women who are trying to get pregnant. The tissue growing outside the uterus can prevent an egg and sperm from uniting or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
Treatments for Endometriosis
After you are diagnosed with endometriosis, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. The most common solutions are medication or surgery, depending on the severity of the symptoms and whether you are trying to get pregnant in the near future.
More conservative routes are usually taken first, such as over-the-counter painkillers including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen.
During the menstrual cycle, hormone fluctuations cause the endometrium to thicken, break down, and bleed. Therefore, supplemental hormone medications, such as hormonal contraceptives, birth control patches or pills, and vaginal rings, can reduce endometrial tissue growth and reduce or eliminate the pain of endometriosis.
If you have endometriosis and are trying to become pregnant, or you want pain relief from a severe case of endometriosis, surgery to remove the endometrial tissue may help. However, endometriosis and the associated pain may return, even after surgery.
It’s important to speak with your doctor about your treatment options, as leaving endometriosis untreated can increase your risk of infertility and certain cancers.
Who Can Help with My Endometriosis Pain?
If you’re struggling with pain caused by endometriosis or other pelvic pain, our team can help. Balcones Pain Consultants offer caring and experienced pain management right here in Austin, Texas. Our pain specialists include board-certified doctors who can help you on your road to health and wellness.
Call us today at (512) 834-4141 to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations in Austin, Cedar Park, and Marble Falls. You can also fill out our simple online appointment request form right now. We look forward to helping you be more pain-free and enjoy life once again.