Sure, women experience discomfort while menstruating,
but chronic pain during menstruation, before and after sex,
and when urinating has become a common problem for millions
of women. This isn’t just an excuse used by women to
get out of work, school, and responsibilities. It is symptoms
of the disease called endometriosis, a condition where tissue
normally found in the lining of the uterus actually grow elsewhere
in the body. The disease is present in the form of lesions.
They are typically found in the pelvic cavity: on the ovaries,
the fallopian tubes, and inner surface of the pelvis. However,
they can also be found on caesarian section scars, on the bladder,
bowel, intestines, colon, appendix, and rectum. In atypical
cases, the disease has been found inside of the vagina, inside
the bladder, on the skin, or even worse in the lungs, spine,
Endometriosis affects a recorded 5.5 million women in the
U.S. alone. Granted that’s only about 4 percent, it is
still significant. Wages lost due to the disease cost an estimated
$35 billion annually. There are no numbers available for diagnosed
treatment, but they go up if the diagnosis and treatment are
delayed. Another risk of a delayed diagnosis is that 30-40
of women that have endometriosis are infertile. The later a
woman begins treatment, the higher the risk of infertility.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain,
which often is associated with the menstrual cycle because
released during menstruation, aggravates the tissues. Pain
can also occur in the lower back region, during or after
in the bowel.
Sarah Tjosvold, a 23-year-old graduate student at HPU, discovered
that she had the disease in 2002. “It’s the most
intense pain you will ever feel,” she said. “You
want to pass out.” Tjosvold began having pelvic pain before,
during, and after her monthly period. The pain became so unbearable
that she was rushed to the emergency room. A laparoscopy revealed
that she had endometriosis. The test required that an incision
be made in her naval and in her side at her waist. Through the
incisions, the lining of her uterus was scraped. In a “normal” case
of endometriosis, there are a few lesions covering the effected
area. In Tjosvold’s case, the procedure revealed that
her entire ovary was encapsulated with tissue. This was the
for her intense pain and it had to be removed immediately.
After the procedure, Tjosvold explained that she could hardly
use the lower region of her body. “I couldn’t put
my own shoes on for two weeks. I could hardly walk…You’d
be surprised how much you use that part of your body. I was
in a lot of pain.”
To control the disease, she went through chemical menopause.
This process “tempered” estrogen production in her
body so that she would not release any eggs and therefore would
not menstruate. To maintain this status she receives regular
shots of Depro Vera. Tjosvold complains of sporadic pain, but
said, “The pain is not nearly as bad or consistent.”
There are several theories on how certain women develop endometriosis.
One theory is genetic predisposition. The theory states that
there is a hereditary link between first-degree women relatives.
A worldwide study called the oxegene study is attempting
to isolate the endometriosis gene in the blood samples of
Another theory, by Dr. John Sampson in the 1920s, is called
retrograde menstruation. He proposed that menstrual tissues
through the fallopian tube and are deposited on the pelvic
organs where they seed and grow. Researchers have discovered
percent of women have a retrograde flow, but since not all
of these women develop endometriosis, doctors have concluded
an immune system or a hormonal dysfunction may be the problem.
Since the cause of endometriosis is still unknown, there
is no cure. Treatments only suppress the disease. Pain killers,
treatments and surgery are the most common. The type of treatment
chosen will be affected by the woman’s age and impact
her fertility, so consulting out a gynecologist is very important.
If you have been concerned about pelvic pain or other unusual
symptoms surrounding your menstrual cycle, take the warning
signs seriously. You may have endometriosis and need to
make an appointment
with a gynecologist as soon as possible. Being honest about
all symptoms during the visit is important to make sure
doctor has all the information that she or he needs to
develop an appropriate treatment plan for you.