(BlackDoctor.org) — “I’m 29 years old and my life feels like it’s upside down,” says Ellen P., who has a history of unbearable crippling cramps, low back pain and flooding with her periods – that’s only been getting worse since she stopped taking birth control pills three years ago.
A medication called Naproxen helps her, but the pain is still disturbing. Most months, she feels like she should stay in bed during her periods. Sometimes, she actually has to. She has also been unable to get pregnant, even though she’s stopped taking the pill.
Unfortunately, Ellen’s complaints are commonly found in women. The common diagnosis? Endometriosis, which can affect women and teens of all ages, even those as young as 10 and as old as 70.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus is displaced other parts of the body. Called lesions, implants or growths, this displaced endometrial tissue commonly develops somewhere in the abdomen, typically involving the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus and/or lining of the pelvic cavity. These growths can cause infertility, painful intercourse, and irregular or heavy periods. Additional symptoms include abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and leg pains that coincide with the menstrual cycle.
What Causes Endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis is not 100% known; however, research spearheaded by the Endometriosis Association has shown that environmental toxins such as dioxin from paper mills, refineries, factories and PCB, which all act like hormones in the body and damage the immune system, can cause endometriosis.
How Do You Find Out If You Have Endometriosis?
The diagnosis of endometriosis is generally considered uncertain until proven by laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive or band-aid surgical procedure done under anesthesia. In this procedure, the abdomen is distended with carbon dioxide gas, to make the organs easier to see, and a laparoscope (telescope with a light in it) is inserted into a tiny incision in the abdomen. This is generally done as an outpatient procedure.
Many women are either misdiagnosed — or not diagnosed at all. The situation tends to be worse for women of color.
How Is Endometriosis Treated?
Treatment for endometriosis has varied over the year, and there is no definitive cure. Painkillers are usually prescribed for pain. Treatment usually involves surgery, which consists of burning, or cutting out the lesions. Hormonal medication can be given after surgery, with the goal of stopping ovulation for as long as possible and forcing the disease into remission. Hormonal treatment includes danazol, GnRH drugs, progesterone and aromatase inhibitors.
Nutritional approaches have also been used, along with herbs, vitamins, and traditional Chinese medicine.
If you or someone that you know have heavy menstrual periods, severe cramps, low back or leg pains, nausea and other bothersome symptoms that coincide with your menstrual. Read about endometriosis and see a physician.
By Dr. Leonard Weather, Jr., NMA President
Dr. Leonard Weather is currently the president of the NMA, as well as a gynecologist, specializing in infertility, fibroids, pelvic pain and endometriosis. Dr. Weather is a health educator, ordained minister, painter and photographer. He is the publisher of the Dr. Weather Report, a monthly healthcare eNewsletter and he has authored three inspirational poetry books and an infertility handbook.
National Institute of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/Endometriosis.cfm