What is endometriosis?Last updated March 29, 2019
This is a guest post from Dr Maria Fernanda Peraza Godoy of GetMine Healthy Pleasure to mark Endometriosis Awareness Month
Endometriosis is a benign disease that affects millions of women during their reproductive life. Today, we estimate around 170 million women around the world or 10% of the global female population, mostly in the reproductive stage of their lives, suffer with endometriosis. The highest incidence is between 25 and 35 years old, and while it’s not strictly a genetic disease, it often has a family link.
Why do people get endometriosis?
Although research has been going on for decades, there is still no concrete explanation for the reasons why some women suffer from endometriosis and others do not.
Essentially, endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue, the tissue that makes up the uterine lining (endometrium), migrates from its rightful spot in the uterus to other organs. Or at least, that’s been a common belief. These ectopic cells—usually found in the neighboring pelvic organs, such as the bladder and bowel—cause inflammation that leads to pain, which can range from bearable to excruciating. Like normal uterine lining, the tissue builds up and sheds over the course of the menstrual cycle, causing internal bleeding. Cysts can form—and rupture—as can scar tissue, which can impair fertility. Although these endometriosis cells typically show up in the vicinity of the uterus, in rare cases the disease can even affect the lungs, diaphragm, and in extremely rare cases, the brain.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The main symptoms of endometriosis are pain and infertility. Approximately one third to one half of women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant although most are able to bring a healthy child to term.
Pain can manifest itself in different ways but is generally present in the form of really bad menstrual pain (often accompanied by excessive bleeding), and pain with bowel movements or urination. Not only does inflammation of the deep and pelvic tissues cause pain, but the pelvic floor muscles often contract involuntarily as a response to a stressful situation, which in turn worsens the pain experienced during and after intercourse. Pain during intercourse invariably leads to lower sexual desire and affects a sufferer’s partner as well as the woman in question, while women with deep infiltrating endometriosis have a sexual function impairment and an overall decrease in well‐being. When this occurs, communication between partners is essential. Yes, verbalising sexuality issues is not easy (read more on how to ask for what you want in bed) but it’s vital when it comes to managing a problem that affects your quality of life and the quality of your relationship. What’s more, with a few adjustments, you can still have a connected, satisfying sex life.
What helps endometriosis pain?
For the partner of a woman with endometriosis, knowing what causes pain and how to avoid it will help subsequent sexual encounters become more pleasurable. One of the strategies to employ might be choosing to be intimate on the days of less pain, or selecting the less painful sexual positions (which vary from person to person), using lube, and considering pain relief in line with a doctor’s recommendations.
For those experiencing chronic pelvic pain, treatment may involve several strands, including psychotherapy, medication, and trigger point and nerve injections. These treatments can be used in addition to laparoscopic surgery to help patients successfully manage their endometriosis. At the discretion of a pain specialist, patients may also be offered more interventional therapeutic options such as nerve blockade, muscle injections, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, or acupuncture.
For those whose pain is not so severe, some people find a vibrator to be a useful tool in helping to beat endometriosis pain. If you suffer from mild endometriosis pain, you could try using a Crescendo on your stomach, abdomen and lower back to relieve the cramping.
What cures endometriosis?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis nor one perfect endometriosis treatment. Most women suffering from it will need to try many different treatments which can include medications, behavioral therapy, and surgery. Endometriosis treatment requires trial and error to find the best combination for any one person. But with clear acknowledgement, patience and support, any sufferer can live life to the full and enjoy a healthy pleasureful sex life.