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An estimated 11 percent, or nearly 7 million women in the U.S. have endometriosis.
That’s more than the number of women who suffer from asthma (9.8%), more than the number of women who suffer from heart disease (6.2%), and it is just slightly less than the number of women who will develop breast cancer during her lifetime (13%).
It effects a lot of women every day.
Endometriosis is a health condition that involves tissue that typically grows in the uterus or womb but begins to grow where it shouldn’t. When this happens, it can cause pain, digestive problems, and even infertility. It can happen to any female, but it is more common in women who are in their 30s and 40s.
Signs and symptoms
The pain women feel is the most common symptom of endometriosis. However, the pain is different for different women, including:
- Pain in the lower back and pelvis that doesn’t go away
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Intense discomfort in the intestines or during bowel movements
- Pain after or during sex
It is important to know that how intense or severe the pain is, doesn’t matter. People with mild pain could have a more advanced case of endometriosis. The pain can also increase over time.
Treatment and prevention
After a doctor does a full exam and diagnoses a patient with endometriosis, there are a few different types of treatment options to discuss.
Medication – Some medications will likely include hormones, usually a hormonal birth control pill or implant, as a starting point. Hormones aren’t a permanent solution but will typically provide some relief of the pain and reduce the additional growth of endometriosis.
Surgery – If medicine isn’t helping, your endometriosis is severe, or you can’t get pregnant, your doctor may suggest surgery. You will likely start hormone medication after the surgery if not trying to get pregnant.
Other treatments – Over the counter pain medicine like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) can help with discomfort. Some women have relief with other things like acupuncture and herbal supplements, but there is no research or proof that these things provide consistent relief.
There is good news and bad news about preventing endometriosis. The bad news is you can’t prevent it. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to decrease your odds of developing it. Because endometriosis is tissue that grows with increases of the hormone estrogen, the goal is to keep that level low with:
- Regular exercise which helps reduce body fat, which then reduces estrogen.
- Reducing or eliminating caffeine because it can increase estrogen levels.
- Opting for a low-dose hormonal birth control pill, patch, or ring.
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol because more than one drink per day can rise your estrogen levels.
Pregnancy and endometriosis
How endometriosis affects a woman’s ability to get pregnant isn’t fully known. But many women – as many as half – with fertility problems had endometriosis. The good news is that many women can still get pregnant! Each patient is different, and every patient’s doctor will recommend the best approach.
Having a medical home with consistent medical exams and conversations with a comprehensive medical team is the best approach. NOAH’s providers work with patients of all ages and health backgrounds. Learn more and make an appointment today.