Article by: by DANIELLE DIRECTO-MESTON | MYDOMAINE
Bloating, breast tenderness, and mood swings are often part of the routine during that time of the month, so it's no surprise that many of us tend to blame any type of period pain as yet another part of womanhood. When it comes to experiencing severe cramps, however, it turns out that not all menstrual discomfort is a regular sign of a healthy reproductive system—in fact, it could be among the symptoms of endometriosis, a painful and often undiagnosed medical condition that occurs in about one of 10 menstruating women of all ages in the U.S. and can affect fertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Endometriosis is caused when the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, implants in areas outside of the womb. As the woman's hormones fluctuate, and as she menstruates, the implants have no way to exit the body in the way that the endometrium is supposed to,
says Tamer Seckin, MD, FACOG, a New York–based gynecologist and co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. The disease is hard to diagnose because it's still taboo to talk openly about periods, he says, but the best way to bring awareness is to talk about it.
Lena Dunham recently recounted her own painful experience with the chronic condition on Lenny Letter. "From the first time I got my period, it didn't feel right," she writes. "The stomachaches began quickly and were more severe than the mild-irritant cramps seemed to be for the blonde women in pink-hued Midol commercials."
Surprisingly, medical school curriculums don't include endometriosis, says Seckin, and his organization is working with universities and legislators to make it a requirement to teach the topic. In the meantime, "we have to change the mindset of physicians and make them more aware of this disease [and] reach the women who have it or think they might have it, and the doctors who are treating them," he adds. "Patients are often sidetracked by the wrong diagnosis of a chronic nature, resulting in them going through unnecessary treatments and multiple surgeries. Educating both the public and the medical community leads to early diagnosis and early intervention."
Read on for four symptoms of endometriosis that you may want to look out for—and if any of them sound familiar to you, it may be time to consult your doctor for help.
"More than half of young girls experience pain with their periods," explains Seckin. "The vast majority of my patients had exceedingly painful periods beginning with their very first one. Women should look out for 'killer cramps,' [which] are debilitating and leave you in bed curled up with a heating pad. Many young women think these cramps are normal especially if their mother suffered with them," he says. "These are not normal."
If you use pads or tampons, it's usually recommended to change them every three to six hours to avoid toxic shock syndrome. However, if you find that you need to freshen up every hour or two during most of your cycle, that's a sign that your menstrual flow is unusually heavy. And if your period lasts longer than one week (the average is between two to seven days), then it might be time to check in with your doctor.
Experts agree that sex has numerous health benefits—but if getting intimate causes intense physical pain, that could be a red flag that you have endometriosis. If the affected tissue is located behind the vagina and the lower uterus, the motions of sex could push and pull on the growths, resulting in pain that can last for up to two days after sex, according to Everyday Health.
Since endometriosis occurs in the pelvic area, it can affect bladder functions and bowel movements if there are adhesions or lesions obstructing those organs. This results in side effects that include but aren't limited to a frequent urge to urinate, painful urination or bowel movements, and diarrhea, according to the Endometriosis Research Center.
When it comes to treatment, Seckin explains that laparoscopic deep-excision surgery is the most effective way to completely remove all of the inflammatory tissue. "Depending on how extensive the disease is the surgeon not only has to be trained to eliminate the disease but also needs to be skillfully prepared to reconstruct organs affected by the disease," he says. "Birth control pills, intrauterine devices, pain medications, and hormone therapy are helpful in treating symptoms of endometriosis, but they do not treat the disease."
I’ve seen many obgyns over the years explaining my monthly symptoms during my period...but eventually it became a daily struggle with these pain. It feels like a poke here and there near my right pelvic region. I was given birth control pills for the past ten years but honestly, it didn’t help at all. I was in bed whenever I had my period. I was previously sent to GI doctors for possible appendicitis but it was ruled out from imagings…
Dr.Seckin is so much more than a surgeon. His passion for helping endometriosis sufferers and determination to improve the quality of life in all of his patients is undeniable. I remember when my gynecologist first told me I needed a laparoscopy. Her exact words were "I can do the surgery, but if you were MY daughter- I'd send you to him." From the first day I met him he took the time to explain endometriosis to me since I knew…
I was there for hysterectomy but then I found out that I also had endometriosis.My both surgeries went excellent and I feel great!.I am so thankful to Dr.Seckin and all his team for making my journey smooth!
I am a physician who suffered from deep infiltrative endometriosis. I needed laparoscopic surgery, so I went to see my former gynaecologist and he performed the procedure (a surgery which he supposedly does hundreds of times a year) last November. I had severe pain again when I had my period in January and was advised to go on taking a low hormone dose anticoncipient pill. My symptoms came back quickly and got worse in a few months’ time. I went…
After years of excessively painful periods, a serious loss of quality of life, and a series of uninformed and uninterested doctors, Dr. Seckin and Dr. Goldstein turned my life around. I was told I woke up from my surgery almost a year ago with a smile on my face, and I haven't stopped since. Before I heard of Dr. Seckin, I was experiencing almost daily terrible pain to the point where I had difficulty walking, inability to eat, inexplicable weight…
Dr Seckin and his team gave me back my life! Tomorrow will be 1 month since my surgery and I feel great. Dr. Seckin, Dr Liu, and Dr Goldstein are not only beyond words talented and amazing Doctors, but they are also genuinely wonderful and caring people. I cannot say enough great things about Holly, Asiye and Kim as well. They were all caring, kind, patient, and took the time to listen to me and explain anything I needed to…
Dr. Seckin and his staff spared me from years and years of heavy periods and unbearable endometriosis pain. After having surgery with him (my first) I can now function like a regular human. No more eating NSAIDs like candy and calling out sick from work. Thank you, Dr. Seckin!