Endometriosis: The Invisible Disease

Would you believe it if I told you that 1 in 10 women walk around with a disease most people have never heard of? Would you believe it if I told it takes up to an average of 10 years for awoman to receive a correct diagnosis? Endometriosis is a devastating disease that causes menstrual tissue to grow outside of the uterus and anywhere in the body. This tissue can attach itself to other pelvic and abdominal organs, causing scarring, adhesions and cysts, which can create a lot of pain and suffering for the woman. Endometriosis affects 176 million women worldwide! Research shows that about $119 billion dollars are lost each year due to endometriosis. Today, the number of women suffering is significantly higher than a few years ago, which can be largely attributed to under-reporting, misdiagnosis and a lack of nonsurgical/noninvasive diagnostic methods. Endometriosis is one of the largest women’s health crisis because of all the reasons mentioned and because there is no way to confirm the diagnosis without surgery.

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Despite so many women suffering, endometriosis continues to be hard to diagnose because all tests come back negative and can lead some doctors to misdiagnosis or tell patients the pain is either “normal” or “in their heads.” During the average 10 years it takes a woman to be diagnosed, many women lose days of school and work, lose hope in having children and struggle with intimate relationships. If you have relatives that have been diagnosed with endometriosis, you have a 2-3 times higher risk of also being diagnosed with endometriosis. Common symptoms include: painful periods, severe pelvic cramping, heavy bleeding, infertility, pain during sex, painful ovulation, urination and bowel pain, constant fatigue, bleeding between periods, digestive problems, periods lasting longer than 7 days and ovarian cysts.   

Endometriosis has no cure but there are treatments that can help manage the pain and depend on the severity of symptoms; these include birth control, surgery and physical therapy. For endometriosis there are two surgical options, ablation or excision surgery, that can help decrease pain significantly. Hysterectomy is not an appropriate surgery for endometriosis! Too many women are told if they take the uterus out, their pain will go away. However, not all of the endometriosis tissue is found in the uterus, which is why this is not an appropriate treatment. Physical therapy is always an option! A skilled PT specialized in treating pelvic floor dysfunction can help through manual work, modalities and therapeutic exercise. I have treated women suffering from Endometriosis and every woman presents differently. Some have surgery and others manage without. I treat women for abdominal and pelvic pain, for issues with defecation, urination, constipation and pain with sex that can all be secondary to endometriosis. A pelvic floor PT can provide significant pain relief and can retrain pelvic floor muscles to decrease pain and improve function.  

Endometriosis is a silent disease that causes millions to suffer--it is time to break the cycle and get women the help they need. A documentary called Endo What was made to help educate everyone about this debilitating disease. You can watch the trailer and learn more on this website: https://www.endowhat.com/. This film delves into the disease and gives you the most current research from experts including doctors, physical therapists and women who have been suffering for years. The more information that is out there, the less time it may take for someone to be diagnosed and the less time someone has to suffer with this invisible disease.

Dr. Brooke David