Painful periods are a common reason for consulting a gynaecologist.
The most common culprit behind the period pain: endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) grows outside the uterus.
The outside endometrial tissues then invade other structures in the body, causing inflammation and pain.
Those with endometriosis have tissues that are similar to their uterus lining found inside their fallopian tubes, ovaries, pelvic cavities, intestines, bladder, and, sometimes even in their lungs or brain.
Endometriosis is a complex and under-diagnosed condition. It's estimated that endometriosis affects over 10% of women of childbearing age. For most women, the pain starts around 15-20 years of age, although it may take several years before the diagnosis is made.
Pain is not the only consequence of endometriosis. Unfortunately, it's also a common cause of infertility, with almost half of all women with fertility problems suffering from it.
Endometriosis lesions react in the same way as the uterus lining, thickening throughout the cycle and disappearing at the time of menstruation.
During menstruation, blood evacuates from the vagina.
In the case of endometriosis, some menstrual blood can rush through the fallopian tubes and may even drain into the pelvic cavity. This is called 'retrograde menstruation'.
Menstrual blood is the elimination of the uterus lining. This blood contains uterine mucous membrane cells, which can adhere to ectopic structures and proliferate, creating endometriosis sites.
As a result of cyclical bleeding, the islets of endometrial cells spread, continually creating new endometriosis sites. This explains why the pain becomes more and more intense over the years.
This pain in the lower abdomen mainly occurs at the time of menstruation, and sometimes during sexual intercourse or when using the toilet. As the organs affected vary greatly, the feeling is very different from one woman to another. In some cases, endometriosis can even be completely asymptomatic.
If you think you may have endometriosis, be sure to consult a doctor. Early diagnosis can help prevent complications. The aim is to prevent the formation of new endometriosis sites and destroy existing ones. For each woman, according to her expectations, a personalised solution will be put in place! Thankfully, both the pain and fertility problems experienced can be treated.
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