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What it Really Means to Have Endometriosis

Dr. Cook Dr. Cook, Endometriosis & Pelvic Pain 17 Comments

Girl in pain

Endometriosis by definition is a disease process whereby tissue somewhat like the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) exists outside the uterus. This “rogue” endometrial-like tissue most commonly involves the peritoneum, a thin layer of tissue that lines the pelvic structures, the bowel, the bladder and the ovaries. Quite frankly a lot of this medical stuff can be quite dry and boring and does not convey what it is like for a woman to have this disease and how it truly impacts her life, her family, her career, her sex life, and her ability to live her life in very basic ways.

In reality, this disease can be like having tens or hundreds of excruciatingly painful blisters covering the inside of the pelvis. Infertility and pelvic pain are the two most common symptoms of endometriosis.


In reality, this disease can be like having tens or hundreds of excruciatingly painful blisters covering the inside of the pelvis.

Patients with endometriosis can experience horrific pain – for the lucky ones it lasts just a couple of days during their period, and in the worst cases the pain is 24/7. The dichotomy between the way women with endometriosis look well on the outside but are experiencing excruciating pain internally can cause even well-meaning people to doubt the severity of their pain.

Most women begin to have pain in their teenage years, sometimes even starting in junior high school. While similar in timing, this pain is completely different than normal menstrual cramps. It is not uncommon for these girls to miss a couple of days of school each month from cyclic pain that can exceed the level of pain patients experience after major surgery.

A lack of awareness of this disease can leave these girls without a correct diagnosis and support from their physicians. This can lead to a lack of appropriate treatment for the pain and invalidation of the patient’s situation. Her family is now led to believe that psychological issues drive the severity of her pain.

In this tragic situation, she is effectively held prisoner and tortured by her own body in broad daylight, with no one who fully understands her situation or who can effectively help her.

In this tragic situation, she is effectively held prisoner and tortured by her own body in broad daylight, with no one who fully understands her situation or who can effectively help her.

The symptoms usually progress as she matures into a young woman. Both the severity and duration of the pain typically increase. Initially most days each month are pain-free, but the number of these days slowly decreases until there are a greater number of non-functioning pain days. The unpredictability of the increasing number of pain days makes it challenging to maintain a functional life. It becomes increasingly difficult to make plans for a future date as it becomes more likely that it will be a pain day and she will not be able to follow through on her commitment for the activity.

As a disease, endometriosis can take away many additional aspects of a normal life. Mothers cannot reliably meet the needs of their children when the pain is too severe to function. Wives try to push through the pain to be intimate with their husbands, but eventually the pain becomes too intense to continue. Grinding fatigue as severe as that experienced with advanced cancer is present in most cases. Bloating, moodiness, and bladder and bowel issues are common as well.

Feeling like a vibrant desirable woman is long since gone. Acting like the loving compassionate woman, mother and partner that she truly is becomes more and more difficult. The stress on family relationships is common and real.

Woman in hospital

Even at this stage, most women fight the disease, refusing to let it completely take over their life. You would most likely pass right by them in public, having no idea of the devastation they are dealing with. Most of the time they get up, put on a brave face and do their best to live a normal life.

The medical definition of endometriosis does not even begin to describe the reality of what it means to have endometriosis. The next time you hear about endometriosis, please remember how devastating this disease can be to a person. While endometriosis can be frustrating, if you have a loved one, friend or co-worker who suffers from endometriosis, please remember to treat them with respect and compassion.

Further Reading
About Vital Health
What is endometriosis?
Is my pelvic pain due to endometriosis?
Does endometriosis have a cure?
What causes endometriosis?
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Treating endometriosis

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Comments 17

  1. Kate

    Hi,

    I have had many issues with pelvic pain since I was in highschool. I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts, but the doctor assured me they would resolve on their own and there was no need to worry. Fast foward a few years later and I still had almost constant pain, which worsened around my period. My doctor suggested I see a specialist as he thought it may be endometriosis. After about a year waiting for the specialist appointment I was more than eager to find out forsure what was going on. To my dissappointment the doctor immediately gave me progesterone pills and that was that. I was so deflated at that point I didn’t ask all the questions I wanted answered. Sorry for the novel, I suppose my real question for you is, is it wrong of me to want a laproscopy? I was afraid to mention this to the specialiat becuase he seemed very dismissive, but I want to know forsure if I have a time limit on having kids, or if I even have a chance…

    Thanks for your time, I hope to hear from you.

    Kate

    1. Margaret Sterner

      Hi Kate,
      You are welcome to call our office at 408-358-2511 if you would like to chat about your case or have a complimentary record review. Certainly with pelvic pain a laparoscopy is in order, to find or rule out endometriosis or possible other causes of your pain. A good case review would also help. Please feel free to call if we can help you. Thank you for your post. Margaret

  2. Kim Scharfenberg

    I am just wondering. I had a hysterectomy about 15 years ago due to endometriosis. The Dr. left one of my ovaries. I had my gall bladder removed 2 years ago. I have been having severe pain under my sternum in the middle of my abdomen for months that has spread to the left side of my abdomen. I have had every test there is for the stomach, heart, and all other organs in my body but all have come back negative. I was wondering. Can endomotrios still be in my body? Where I hurt? Do you have any advice?

    1. Margaret Sterner

      Hi Kim, I am sorry you are having pelvic pain … many surgical techniques vary, so it is possible that endo was missed or perhaps burned instead of being excised. Perhaps you should see a specialist or consult with our office, as we do complimentary phone or internet consults for those interested. Margaret

    2. Katie

      Hi Kim

      These symptoms are exactly what I had prior to my first endo excision surgery! See a gynaecologist – it most certainly could still be endometriosis

  3. Misty

    Hello, I have been sick for two years now and finally had surgery in March of this year for Endometriosis diagnosis and and ovarian cyst removal from my left ovary. The ob/gyn found and excised 3 spots of endo and lasered 3 that were in hard to reach places. He removed a large cyst from my left ovary and said I had 2 stalks growing on my fallopian tube which had cyst on them as well and he also removed them. I have such problems with my bladder and bowels and I still don’t know if the places he burned off were on my organs because he never would tell me. He performed a Cystoscopy which leads me to believe it was taken off my bladder. I have never recovered from the surgery to date! I was admitted to the hospital upon my post op check up because of all my pain. I had a catscan with contrast while in the hospital and before being discharged he told me that I had just let the pain get away from me? That’s all! Then the same restrictions as when I had the surgery, light activity and no heavy lifting! The pain has never left. I’m the same as before surgery but 10 times worse because now I think I have a pelvic prolaspe which landed me in the emergency room There I found out that I not only more than likely had a prolapse but I now have Colitis and my Pancreatic enzymes are extremely elevated. They did a Catscan and a Transvaginal Ultrasound , the ER dr said that the TV wand can push the prolapse back up but it can come back down. Is that true? I am now due to see a different gyno and I have to go to the gastroenterenologist . Could my Endo be back already? Plus my Uterus was enlarged. I know it’s alot, sorry I’m just so sick. I’ve lost 18 more pounds since surgery and I didn’t have a period in March, then a 2 day one in April then 3 days of breakthrough spotting the next week.

  4. Kimberley

    For four years ive been suffering with tummy cramp and had lots of test and scans, the doctor told me it was actually IBS. Each period the pain would get worse but I just kept putting it off. Christmas 2014 I had pain in my back, tummy, groin and down my leg, I went to a walk in centre and they referred me for an ultrasound, they found I had 3 cyst 2 measuring 4cm and one measuring 7.5cm, since then k have been in and out of hospital several times and been for several tests, ive now been told I also have endomtriosis, it’s taking over my everyday life, im in hospital every other week in absolute agony, im in constant pain 24/7 and I feel as tho the hospital isn’t doing anything to rush the procedure up. I’m now waiting on an MRI to see how bad the endomtriosis is and what it’s effecting. Im taking lots of pain killers, tramadol, morphine patches, codeine etc.. Nothing helps ease the pain and I just don’t know what to do anymore, ive looked at going private but it’s going to cost thousands of pounds. any advice will be so grateful.

  5. Moraima Montenegro

    I had my right ovary removed 4 years ago and a hysterectomy 3 years ago. At the beginning I felt great! I had energy! I was actually able to function all day without being tired and the pain went away. Today I get minimal pain, I believe its when I should be on my period but I have a few months feeling very tired and sluggish. I am unsure if I should blame it on the hormones or the endometriosis. Would you have any advice for me? I feel it is slowly taking over again. :(

  6. D

    Hello.
    I really enjoy how this article is written. It feels as though while reading it, we’re connecting – as though it was a verbal conversation, rather than a website talking towards you.

    I’ve had every test done “under the moon” to figure out what my abdominal pain, which seems to be worse with dysmenorrhea, may be – excluding a laparoscopy which I’m on a waiting list for.

    I was told it could be IBS but I was never going to accept that & I know it’s more than that.

    SO, my questions are:
    – Can ovarian cysts disappear and come back as they wish with NO signs of them being there “in between” and what is the best way to find them?

    – Can endometriosis come and leave and leave no signs of it ever being there?

    Thank you so much and my apologies for the long message.
    Please email back as soon as possible.

  7. Lakkie

    Hi Everyone,
    Thanks for the article confirming that my tiredness isn’t just a mental thing. I am from South Africa. Reading all your comments makes me feel blessed to have the gynae I do. At 19, my GP referred me to my current gynae, who immediately recognised the symptoms. I had my first scrape and removal of cysts then. After 2 healthy babies(surprisingly!) I had a hysterectomy at 30, leaving my ovaries in place. I had 5 great, almost pain-free years. Then pain started creeping back. I was getting more and more fatigued. I blamed it on being overworked, getting divorced, having moved. Then recently, during intercourse, it felt like someone had punched me in the stomach, HARD. I consulted a new GP, but it was brushed off. So I went to my old (almost retired) GP. He sent me for a sonar, and the doc there referred me for a CT scan. All this proved the endo and cysts are back with a vengeance. I am 37. It feels like I cannot sleep enough, have constant back pain and pain in my side. Sex is painful. Thankfully, I have visited my same gynae of 18 years. I’ll be having laporoscopic removal of the cysts, the scarring, the endo, and an oopherectomy in 10 days. I am not too happy about losing my ovaries, but if the pain and tiredness will leave my body, I will be in a much better place. Thanks again for the to-the-point article- i’ll be sharing it with my partner so he can understand better what i’m going through xx

  8. Donna

    Hi i am 40 years of age and my periods are getting worse every month my legs ache i am such an nightmare to live with.. i know this myself, i feel sorry for my partner and kids that they have to put up with me like this, i suffer great pain every month and cry a lot i have been to the doctors and she said my progesterone levels were down and i was taking progesterne tablets but they made me violently sick and gave ne dioreah i just dont know what i can do now

  9. Jessica

    Thank you so much for this article. It really means the world to me right now. I’m 24 and ever since I was about 13 I’ve always struggled with heavy and very painful periods. When I was 17 I went to three different Gynos all who said I had no signs of endometriosis and sent me on my way saying here’s 800 mg ibprophen, it’s just cramps. From that day on I felt stupid like maybe I made up how bad and extreme my period was. And that I was being a baby and this was just a part of life. Every month it was painful and I would count the days till the next and just dread what was coming.

    Then back in December 6 months ago I was doubled over on my floor for 3 days extreme pain in my stomach, diarrhea first two days and throwing up that I stopped eating and drinking. The pain settled down and tried to go to the gym drank some water threw it back up and was doubled over again in so much pain. Went into er and 7 hours later after 5 doctors an obgyn discovered my ovary was covered in 5 endometrial cyst and swelled to the size of a coconut twisted in my intestine and blocked off my intestine. Had emergency surgery removed my right ovary. And Fallopian tube and scrapped off what they could of the scar tissue and endometriosis. The next day doctor said I was good to go and see me in a year. I was nervous but trusted him

    5 months after this surgery I was still a mess and periods were just as bad as always so I made another appointment with him to find out further things to help my pain . He suggested an iud I got a Pap smear before I could get the iud it came back abnormal so did a biopsy came back high squamous cells cin2, set up an appointment to get LEEP procedure and one week before that apointment same thing happened I was doubled over 2 am on the verge of passing out extreme pain and diarrhea and was taken into er. 5 hours later find out another emergency surgery is needed. In surgery he found and removed 6 in of my bowel that was closed off twisted and was completely covered in scar tissue and mass amount of endometriosis.

    This is my story so far I’m now finding a new Gyno who will hopefully listen and stop taking endometriosis so lightly. If there is anything I can tell whoever is reading this please don’t take your health lightly if your in pain , keep pushing and make it known and if your doctor brushes it off like it’s not a big deal please find a new doctor. Endometriosis is serious and not many people will ever understand what it’s really like. Just like this article says

    1. Margaret Sterner

      Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story. The burden this disease places on women is heartbreaking.

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