We’re going to start at the very beginning here, with the most googled women’s health question of 2018, what exactly is Endometriosis? How does it affect us? And more importantly, why does it affect some of us?
Back to basics – endometriosis is where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside of the uterus, on other organs. In the majority of cases endometrium is found in the abdomen and pelvis area, but it has been reported to be found on both the brain and lungs in more severe cases. This tissue causes adhesions on the areas where it is found, and can (for want of a nicer phrase) stick areas of the organs together. This can be one of the main causes of the pain, as the adhesions sticking organs together can cause them to be pulled into positions that they would not naturally sit in.
It is a condition that can cause a lot of confusion when researching, and many people without the condition who are trying to find out of it on behalf of a loved one with it can really struggle in particular as they don’t have any personal experience to draw on. When I have been explaining it to people, I use the analogy of chewing gum that you’ve stepped on. The chewing gum is the endometrium and the shoe and the floor are two areas where it is found. They are joined together, and when they are pulled apart into their more normal positions you can see the strands of chewing gum stretching between them. The biggest difference is, it’s much easier to get chewing gum off the base of your shoe! It can be quite a daunting condition to get your head around, there are lots of long medical terms and not a lot of open discussion about it (because, periods) and some of the long terms implications can be quite concerning, such as fertility. Having an open discussion with those closest to you can be difficult if you don’t fully understand it yourself, but my advice is to just keep talking, and if you don’t know the answer, then just be open. No one will think any worse of you because you don’t understand the condition you have been diagnosed with. The most important thing is to keep the dialogue open.
Depending on where the adhesions are can also affect pain levels. For example, if the tissue is found on the outside of the bladder, when the bladder is full and expanded there is likely to be a higher level of pain. One of the most difficult things about endometriosis is that the severity of adhesions found does not always correlate with the pain felt.
There are officially four stages of endometriosis, however from what I have seen from others there is potentially a fifth in the works (this is definitely just speculation, and I have not seen anything confirming this officially).
Endometriosis can impact on many things, including quality of life, careers, relationships, social life and fertility. I will be addressing all of these topics during the endocation series.