Endometriosis is a commonly misunderstood and often misdiagnosed condition that has only recently been brought into the public sphere because of celebrities like Julianne Hough, Lena Dunham, and Padma Lakshmi have opened up publicly about their personal suffering with the condition. But in reality, it’s quite common, affecting one in ten women of reproductive age in the United States. Some studies reveal that it may be even more common due to the prevalence of patients who have the condition but are asymptomatic, as well as transgender and non-binary individuals who may have a more difficult time finding appropriate healthcare to be properly diagnosed.
Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus to grow outside of the uterus. The displaced uterine tissue, as a result, has no place to go, so it adheres to the walls of the surrounding organs like the bladder, intestines and rectum, which can cause pelvic pain before, during or after menstruation, during sexual intercourse, or during urination and defecation. Statistics show that those suffering from the condition often receive a delayed diagnosis six to ten years after they first begin experiencing symptoms. Endometriosis pain can be debilitating for many women and can cause long-term issues that can affect both the physical and mental components of quality of life.
So, why are women suffering undiagnosed? The American College of Gynecology refers to endometriosis as an “invisible illness” meaning that undiagnosed women experiencing endometriosis are trying to manage their pain and other internal symptoms on their own without proper treatment or support. This may be because endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose, as well as the lack of awareness, resources and knowledge about this condition. This. Has. To. Change.
Like the celebrities we idolize who are stepping out to share their stories, other women are banding together to fight back against endometriosis pain, doubt and dismissal. It’s our job to work together to empower those who may be suffering from this condition to share their experiences, to build an arsenal of resources and to give guidance to those who may be diagnosed or need help in the future. The world needs to know what living with endometriosis is really like.
While there may not be a cure for endometriosis right now, there are treatment options. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be suffering from endometriosis and are experiencing any of the symptoms below, consult your doctor.
Some of the most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Chronic, long-term pelvic pain
- Painful bowel or bladder symptoms
- Pain with sex
- Family history of endometriosis
- Starting menstruation at a very young age
- Long, heavy periods
Many of these symptoms are also present for other pelvic floor disorders and you should consult with your doctor about your concerns and for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.