When it comes to certain medical conditions, some people may not feel comfortable opening up about their experiences with others. We’ve seen how this can make women feel isolated, and at times defeated. Sometimes these conditions can even hold certain stigmas, so women may feel anxious speaking out. Additionally, depending on the condition, it can be challenging to receive an official diagnosis, sometimes after years of seeking answers or wondering what was causing various symptoms. One condition that often comes with these challenges is endometriosis, which is a leading cause of infertility in women.
We honor Endometriosis Awareness as a way to raise awareness of a disease that affects an estimated 200 million women worldwide. At OvuSense and viO HealthTech, we strive to bring a voice to women who are looking to take control over their health. We’ve also recently submitted a clinical paper to the ESHRE congress showing how OvuSense can help screen for endometriosis – stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, below we’re sharing some information around endometriosis, including what the condition is and what symptoms to watch for, as well as hearing from some members of our community.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It can be extremely painful and affects anywhere from 6-10% of women. During menstruation, the endometrial lining is shed from the uterus, but the lining that has attached outside the uterus has no way of leaving the body. While there is no known cause for endometriosis, some believe there is a genetic link for this condition.
According to the Endometriosis Foundation, women with endometriosis are more likely to experience infertility due to the molecules produced by inflammation and anatomy changes that are common for women with this condition.
What Symptoms Should I Look for to Receive a Diagnosis?
Although everyone’s experience with the condition may be different, and it can ultimately be difficult to identify and diagnose, there are some symptoms that can indicate endometriosis. Common symptoms include painful intercourse, chronic pelvic pain, fatigue, heavy or irregular bleeding, or gastrointestinal problems. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your physician.
If you’re still searching for some additional information about potential symptoms, our experts want to help! Below two of our clinicians are sharing their thoughts on endometriosis symptoms and how to receive a diagnosis.
Kate Davies, RN, BSc(Hons), FP Cert: On average it can take 7 years for a woman to receive a diagnosis of endometriosis. This in part, is due to difficulty in diagnosing the condition as it can be frequently misdiagnosed as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). In the UK, the Royal College of Nursing has developed a fact sheet to help clinicians in diagnosing endometriosis. This fact sheet is also useful for women too, as the document includes a checklist of symptoms that women can complete and then take along to their doctor. This fact sheet educates and empowers women to take ownership of their health and will help reduce the time it takes for a woman to be diagnosed and then treated for endometriosis.
Dr. Alison Gottschalk, a Hormone and PCOS Fertility Naturopathic Doctor: Endometriosis is commonly associated with a lot of pelvic pain and heavy periods, whereas with PCOS you shouldn’t be experiencing that level of pelvic pain. So we tend to see heavier, painful periods and more of those estrogen dominant symptoms, like feeling nauseous at certain points of your cycle or getting migraine headaches, with endometriosis. I would say certainly, if you haven’t already, go see your doctor for an assessment. Endometriosis can be discovered through a laparoscopy, but certainly, get an ultrasound done if you’re experiencing a lot of pelvic pain.
What Causes Endometriosis and Are There Ways to Manage Symptoms?
We know that managing endometriosis symptoms can be difficult, especially since it can take years to receive an official diagnosis and you may not know where to start in terms of treatments and lifestyle changes. However, once you receive a diagnosis, the next question after the initial shock wears off may be “how can I treat this condition?” While it may be disheartening to hear that there is no cure for endometriosis, there are steps you can take to lessen your symptoms, which may also have a positive effect on your overall health.
Below, some more of our experts are sharing some information, including potential causes and lifestyle changes that can be made to help alleviate some symptoms.
Zermina Akbary, BSN, RN, CHHC: While endometriosis is usually viewed exclusively as a reproductive disorder, it's actually a whole-body health condition with many underlying contributing factors. Research hasn't identified exactly what causes it, there is technically no "cure", and the treatment options in conventional medicine are limited. Many of the common symptoms associated with this disease are not even driven by the presence of the endo lesions themselves but are a result of other health issues that tend to occur alongside endo, such as digestive problems, nutritional deficiencies, blood sugar imbalances, and immune system dysfunction.
On the positive side, this means that patients have a lot of options for how to focus on their healing journey so they can reduce their pain and support their fertility. It's important to work with a practitioner that will look at lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, inflammation, and immunity to create hormonal balance with endo to optimize fertility and overall health.
Jen Walpole, Registered Nutritionist: Inflammation can affect ovulation and hormone production and is also associated with endometriosis. Whilst there is little nutritional intervention when it comes to endometriosis, an anti-inflammatory diet may be a helpful approach. Inflammation can be assessed with a simple blood test, whilst vaginal inflammation may be diagnosed via a swab. In addition, autoimmunity plays a part in this picture, as this is where the immune system mistakenly attacks your body. A study found that premature ovarian failure was linked to autoimmunity in 50% of cases. The Mediterranean diet is the most widely studied for its anti-inflammatory nature and positive fertility outcomes.
We know being diagnosed with endometriosis can be a frightening or confusing time, but you don't have to go through it alone. In fact, remember you are among some of the strongest women (around 200 million of them!). Everyone’s experience may be different, but know you are not alone!
“Endometriosis is a hard disorder to deal with and it comes with a lot of uncertainties and ups and downs; that includes never knowing when your period will come. If you have OvuSense you can track your periods with another method that won't change based on your other health conditions or anything else going on in your life. Peace of mind if what OvuSense gives you!”
- Lauren C.
If you’re struggling to manage your symptoms or looking for more information about endometriosis, look for a support group online to connect with others that share your experience. You can also find an endometriosis specialist in your area online, or by contacting local providers to see if they are trained in treating or managing this condition.
Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.