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Painful Periods? Could Be Endometriosis

September 16, 2007

upset-girl_2.jpgMany girls experience pain and discomfort during their periods. Menstrual cramps, a heavy flow, bloating, and back pain can all be normal symptoms of your menstrual cycle. But sometimes more intense pain can be a sign of a disorder called endometriosis. Although endometriosis is most commonly found in women over 25, it can affect a girl as soon as she begins puberty.What exactly is it?

Each month, when a woman gets her period, the lining of the uterus (which is called the endometrium) breaks down and is shed as menstrual flow. When a woman has endometriosis, the kind of tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus also shows up in other parts of her body, including the ovaries, the bowels, and the bladder. During her period, this tissue breaks down — but since it’s outside the uterus, it can’t leave the body during menstruation, and cysts and scar tissue may form as a result.

Symptoms of endometriosis include:

– pelvic or abdominal pain, especially during ovulation and menstruation
– back pain, especially during menstruation
– heavy, lengthy, or irregular periods
– painful bowel movements and urination
– pain during or after vaginal intercourse
– nausea and vomiting
– diarrhea or constipation
While no one is 100 percent sure of what causes endometriosis, researchers believe the condition may be somewhat hereditary. For example, if your mother or grandmother had or has endometriosis, you may be more likely to have the disorder.

I have those symptoms!

If you are experiencing symptoms like those of endometriosis, it is important that you talk to your clinician. Only a clinician can diagnose endometriosis. Sometimes a surgical procedure called laparoscopy is performed to diagnose endometriosis. During the procedure, a clinician looks inside a woman’s pelvic cavity with special instruments to see if she has endometriosis. Some women can manage their pain with over-the-counter painkillers (such as ibuprofen), and some turn to changes in diet and exercise in order to deal with the symptoms. Unfortunately, the pain may be too severe for other women, in which case prescription treatments may be used.

What else could it be?

There are other disorders that can cause pelvic pain, including sexually transmitted infections, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and fibroids. (Fibroids are tumors that are not cancerous. They usually appear inside or around the uterus.) Symptoms of endometriosis are similar to symptoms for these disorders.

Severe menstrual pain shouldn’t be ignored, so visit your clinician if you’re experiencing severe pain before or during your period, or pain during intercourse if you’re sexually active.

You know your body best.

Each month, track your pain and how heavy your flow is and how many days your period lasts. You’ll discover whether or not your menstrual cycle is regular and how often you experience pain during your cycle. This will be helpful when talking to your clinician about whether or not your monthly pain might be something more than just a pain.


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