I had a conversation with a friend the other day and she noted that I had lost a bit of weight. I mentioned that I had been unwell for a while and told her I had endometriosis. She added that she has also suffered from it and really, it wasn’t that bad. I asked her to explain her journey and she mentioned heavy and painful periods of which run for days on end. She sought treatment in India and after surgery she has since been okay. So I dug further after she gave me the look of, please, get over it also. I asked her when the pains would show up and if the doctor had said she had growths outside of her uterus? “What?” She almost strangled me. “Hai, what are those? I took my time to explain and I could see she did not want any association with the disease, leave alone the thought that she might have it. It is one of those ‘Stigmatized’ diseases that no one really wants to be associated with or imagine they could have.
That is when I came to the realization that it is very easy to confuse abdominal pain caused by other reasons with that caused by endometriosis. A common mistake I see young girls, women and even doctors do is to diagnose dysmenorrhea as endometriosis. Whereas one may be a symptom of the other, the two may not be caused be either.
Is this to say that people with dysmenorrhea suffer less than those with endometriosis? Not necessarily. Does that mean that dysmenorrhea is any smaller or less significant than endometriosis? Not at all.
But my biggest worry is that endometriosis might sound like such a “death sentence” especially to a young girl in her teens, a young couple trying to conceive or just to any woman in whatever age bracket or social standing. Although in some instances endometriosis has been seen to recede completely or to manageable levels, the majority of women just learn to live with this torturous condition.
Let us have a closer look at these differences
This is a symptom characterizes by painful periods and cramps. Sometimes with nausea, vomiting and lower back pains. Most of the times the periods are heavy and may go for longer than the 3-5 days.
Pain is usually just before the periods and during the periods. In rare occasions, the pain is experienced during ovulation.
The pain subsides as the menses come to an end.
The pain is usually associated with excessive or an imbalanced high levels of prostaglandins which is the hormone that makes the uterus contract during menses and childbirth
Dysmenorrhea is known to get better with age in most reported cases
It is also reported to improve after birth – postpartum
Internal examinations reveal normal results of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes – no underlying pathology
Dysmenorrhea can be controlled with analgesics and hormonal therapy
It can be caused by a number of conditions such as endometriosis, fibroid tumors, adenomyosis or retroverted uterus
Women who experience dysmenorrhea rarely report having pain during sex. In fact, orgasm is recommended to bring the pain down.
Other causes of secondary dysmenorrhea may include:
1. PID – pelvic inflammatory disease infecting the fallopian tubes
2. Adenomyosis – endometrium lining growing within the uterine muscular walls
3. Untreated STI – sexually transmitted disease
4. Ovarian cysts
5. IUD – Itra –uterine device
This is a disease characterized either by:
1. Painful periods (heavy or light), lower back pains, headache, nausea, and cramping. OR
2. Irregular and painless periods, spotting, chronic lower back pains, pelvic pains and lower abdomen pain
3. Painless regular periods which could be light or normal
4. Normal or slightly crampy regular periods – light or heavy
The pain associated with endometriosis is unpredictable. Some people experience pain throughout the year while others have no clue they suffer from endometriosis until they experience difficulty in conceiving. Some have painful periods whereas others have blissful menses. Endometriosis is very different with each woman.
For most women, the pain is chronic. For others it is unpredictable when it will flare up, while for others, their periods are just another excruciating episode in their lives.
Endometriosis is caused by the growth of endometrial stroma outside of the uterine wall and in the uterus, pelvic area, bladder, bowel and other organs. Endometriosis is an estrogen dependent inflammatory disease.
In most cases, women have reported the condition to get worse with time and age
There is temporary relief during and after pregnancy but childbirth does not necessarily take away the problem. Unlike the belief among many, hysterectomy also does not cure endometriosis and in a few cases, it has been reported to worsen the condition and painful spells.
Internal examinations reveal endo-cysts and growths.
Endometriosis requires surgery, hormonal therapy, diet, exercise, lifestyle changes or a combination of all these just to bring the pain to manageable levels
Endometriosis is caused by the growth of painful implants of the endometrial tissues around the uterus and other areas in the body. These could include organs such as the bladder, liver, the pelvic floor area, the rectum and in rare cases the lungs and brain.
Women affected by the disease often report having pain during intercourse and especially deep penetration.
Statistics show that women suffering from endometriosis are more prone to cancer and especially endometrial cancer.
I might not have exhausted all the differences in this one article. As always I advise you to refer to your consultant for more medical advice and information and diagnosis as well as read from a reputable medical website.
I hope that I have shed some light on the differences. However, even when all is said and done, none of the conditions should be tolerated by anyone. We all deserve a happy and painless life. To any of the warriors out there, learn your body and identify your pain triggers for better management and a happier life.
Don’t forget to drop me a comment or discuss your thoughts on the subject.