(BPT) - This content is sponsored and provided by Myovant Sciences and Pfizer Inc.
Thirty years ago, a small group of advocates convened in Milwaukee to address endometriosis, a complex and often painful condition that impacts millions of women. This group, known as the Endometriosis Association, established Endometriosis Awareness Week to educate people about the condition. Today, this movement has evolved into a month-long, worldwide awareness effort to share resources and bring patients together.
Awareness of endometriosis has grown along with the need for interventions. With continued recognition each March, the hope is for earlier diagnosis and treatment. Could you or someone you know be impacted by this condition and not know? Read on to learn more about endometriosis.
1. What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the uterine lining is found outside of the uterus. Endometriosis is typically found in the pelvic cavity but in rare cases can also grow in other parts of the body.
2. How common is endometriosis?
In the U.S., there are approximately 7.5 million premenopausal women with endometriosis. Approximately 75-80% of these women experience symptoms associated with their condition. Endometriosis is most often diagnosed in women in their 30s and 40s; however, delays from symptom onset to diagnosis can range from 4-11 years.
Although the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, there are several factors that may put women at higher risk. For example, you are more likely to develop the condition if a close relative (such as your mother or sister) has it. Additional risk factors include starting your period before age 11, having a short monthly cycle and having heavy periods that last more than a week.
3. What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Endometriosis can affect people in many ways, but the most common symptom is chronic pelvic pain, especially around your period. Additional common symptoms include infertility, heavy periods, painful sex, stomach pain and painful bowel movements. The symptoms of endometriosis can be burdensome and can interfere with daily activities.
4. How is endometriosis diagnosed?
If your healthcare provider believes you may have endometriosis, they will typically begin by performing a physical and pelvic exam. A combination of symptoms, signs and imaging may be used to make a clinical diagnosis of endometriosis. The most common imaging approach is transvaginal ultrasound.
Endometriosis can also be diagnosed through surgery. The most common procedure is called a laparoscopy, in which a surgeon makes a small cut into the abdomen, inserts a slender tube and examines the reproductive organs and surrounding areas to determine if endometriosis is present.
5. What are some potential treatment options?
Endometriosis cannot be cured; however, there are many treatments that may help manage the symptoms associated with endometriosis. For endometriosis-associated pain, current treatment options include prescription and over-the-counter pain medications, hormone therapies such as oral contraceptives, progestins, antigonadotropic agents, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and antagonists and surgical interventions. Your doctor can help you determine what is right for you based on factors such as your age and the severity of your symptoms.
6. What can you do if you think you have endometriosis?
If you’re living with pain, there is no need for you to suffer in silence. As a first step, you can reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. They can help determine if you may have endometriosis and work with you to come up with a plan to manage your condition.
You can also take steps to educate yourself. The Uterine Health Guide is a digital repository created by Myovant Sciences and Pfizer that contains information about menstrual health, including conditions such as endometriosis. It also has advice for talking to your doctor and finding support in your community.