1 in 10 women will think they’re just having a bad period before they find out it’s something bigger than that. Those bad cramps, that heavy bleeding or that painful intercourse are just some of what women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis experience. Many call it an invisible disease because you can’t see it, it’s hard to determine and most doctors don’t know how to properly treat it. During Women’s History Month, we should discuss something that, for the most part, universally connects us — our menstrual cycle.

Photo: Imgur

Endometriosis is a common condition that affects women during the reproductive years. It occurs when tissue similar to the uterine lining (endometrium) attaches to organs in the pelvis and begins to grow. This displaced endometrial tissue causes irritation in the pelvis that can lead to pain and infertility. Long story short, things that should happen inside of your womb are happening on the outside and attaching to your organs. Not good. Endometriosis has no favorite race, it equally affects all women regardless of race and socioeconomic status that are over the age of 20.

So how do you find this sucker of a disease? Evidence of endometriosis is not visible on CTs, MRIs, or even ultrasounds. Pelvic exams, especially rectovaginal exams, can indicate high suspicion of endometriosis but cannot confirm it. There is no test for endometriosis, meaning patients can’t have their blood, urine or saliva tested to confirm the disease. The only way to verify endometriosis is to undergo a diagnostic laparoscopy with pathology confirmation of biopsy specimens.

Top 10 symptoms of endometriosis:

1. Killer cramps before and during your period. Simple medicine such as Tylenol or Midol don’t work.

Photo: Buzzfeed

2. Pain during sex
3. Infertility
4. Fatigue

Photo: Giphy

5. Painful urination during periods
6. Bowel and urinary disorder – frequent urges to urinate or diarrhea, painful urination and bowel movements
7. Chemical sensitivities
8. Frequent yeast infections
9. Heavy menstrual flow – Having to change your tampon or pad frequently

Photo: Buzzfeed

10. Long periods – More than seven days

Photo: Buzzfeed
Photo: Buzzfeed

If you think any of these symptoms are familiar to your monthly experience, it’s time to bring up the conversation with your OB/GYN, not your general practitioner.

But there are survivors

If you do get diagnosed with endometriosis, you’ll become a part of a sisterhood that supports you and understands what it’s like to live with an invisible debilitating disease. Here are the stories of April Kendall, Founder of Endonme, and myself. We hope they will help shine some light on what it’s like to live with endometriosis.

Six years ago, after living a life of painful periods and trying every over-the-counter medication there is, I decided to have a conversation with an OB/GYN about my symptoms. She said, “sounds like you have endometriosis.” Confused and unclear of what this woman was telling me, I went to her office for a full check-up, only to find that her hypothesis was correct and I was a woman with endometriosis. Once I left the doctor’s office, I was sad and angry because I knew something was wrong with me for quite some time, but then a sense of relief came over because I knew that this started a brand new day and life for me would forever change from here on out. Now, six years later into suffering from endometriosis and two laparoscopies later, I still deal with this daily. But now I approach it with a different posture. I understand and recognize that it’s not only me with this condition. And even though I still might experience pain and nausea, I’m now relieved to know I don’t suffer in silence anymore, and continuing to spread awareness is always key to fighting a disease like endometriosis and helping more women find their voices and healing through the process.

— April Kendall

My entire life I have had extremely bad cramps and long periods. But five years ago, after bleeding heavily for three weeks straight, my OB/GYN told me that she believed I had endometriosis. She was right. Three laparoscopic surgeries and three rounds of Lupron injections later I struggle daily with debilitating pain and heavy bleeding. There are days I can’t manage to get dressed, let alone go to work. As I turn 30 I have the same concerns most women do at my age, but mine are rather intensified. Will I ever be able to have a baby? That question I don’t have the answer to. But I do know that incurable doesn’t mean death and I can fight this with the help of my endo sisters and supportive friends.

— LaVita Tuff

Don’t wait until its too late, it’s more than just a bad period. Have a conversation with your doctor today. To learn more about endometriosis visit the Endometriosis Foundation of America. And remember — you’re not alone in this. Even if you do have it, you’re nothing short of bomb.

Photo: Wnyc

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