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Code Name: Endo Awareness

A menstrual cycle (sometimes given a code name like “Tom” (time of the month), or “The Visitor”) is a time during the month where the endometrium, which is the inner lining of a woman’s uterus, sheds, causing her to bleed for a few days at a time.  It is common for a woman to experience unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, nausea, mild discomfort, pelvic pain or cramps, and mood changes during a menstrual cycle, but extreme pain in the pelvic area before, during, or after a menstrual cycle may indicate a serious health condition known as endometriosis.  March is recognized as Endometriosis Awareness month and health professionals and organizations around the world aim to raise global awareness about this health condition that affects approximately 176 million women worldwide.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis, also known as endo, is a chronic medical condition where the tissue that makes up the endometrium grows outside the uterus to body parts it should not be in, such as the vagina, ovaries, and the fallopian tubes.  The presence of the endometrium outside of the uterus causes women to feel extreme pain, pain that often heightens during a menstrual cycle and causes disruption in women’s daily lives and activities.

Facts about endometriosis

  • According to the Office of Women’s Health, endometriosis affects about 5 million women in America and it is most common among women in their 30s and 40s
  • The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain.  Other symptoms include increased pain after sexual intercourse, spotting between menstrual cycles, trouble getting pregnant or infertility, and digestive issues
  • Endometriosis can be asymptomatic, making it hard to diagnose in many cases
  • The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but according to the Office of Women’s Health,  things like genetic factors, immune system problems and increased levels of estrogen can encourage the onset of endometriosis
  • There is no way to prevent endometriosis, but regular exercise, consuming low levels of alcohol and caffeine, and communicating with your physician regularly can reduce one’s risk of developing endometriosis
  • There is no cure for endometriosis.  Fortunately, effective treatment is available.  According to the Endometriosis Association, current treatment plans include pain medication, hormonal treatment and surgery

Endometriosis and conditions alike can be devastating and discouraging for the women experiencing it, causing them to miss school, work, or the opportunity to expand their family.  Being informed about the symptoms and effects of endometriosis will help those with the health condition manage it better and it will help the people understand the impacts of the condition.  Healthcare providers can provide helpful information, including ways to manage the pain and gain access to treatment, so if you wish to learn more about endometriosis, talk to your primary care physician, or visit websites like the Endometriosis Research Center or the Office of Women’s Health for more information.

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