Endometriosis is a medical condition in which the tissue (endometrium) that usually lines the inside of the uterus is present outside the uterus. Although endometriosis can occur anywhere in the body, it is most commonly found in the lower abdomen or pelvis. While the exact cause of the endometriosis remains unknown, it is believed that retrograde menstruation (menstrual flow moves in the wrong direction) and coelomic metaplasia (a theory that says endometriosis is caused due to abnormal change in cells present in ovarian lining) are common explanations for the disease. Women with endometriosis suffer from excruciatingly painful periods and are also at risk of infertility. The condition is more common amongst people whose close relatives also have the same disease, as the disease has a slight genetic disposition.
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis
Pain, especially during periods, is the most significant symptom of endometriosis. Menstruation can be a nightmare for women with endometriosis as they bleed from the tissues inside and outside the uterus. This leads to blood touching other internal organs, causing irritation, inflammation, and severe pain. Endometriosis also causes pain in the pelvic or lower abdominal region, during sexual intercourse, and during bowel movements. Moreover, individuals suffering from endometriosis may also face fertility problems in the future.
5 self-care tips for women with endometriosis
If you start experiencing any symptoms of endometriosis, it is essential to consult a doctor and get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, focusing on your wellness and changing a few lifestyle habits can also help deal with the disease.
There is no specific diet for women with endometriosis but eating a well-rounded diet that includes a lot of whole food, omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, and some carbohydrates can help decrease inflammation, bloating, and pain. However, no single diet works for everyone, and some food may even lead to increased pain, so every woman needs to figure out what works best for them. Remember to avoid pesticides and insecticides present in certain nutrients as they are considered dangerous to people with endometriosis.
Do light exercises and stay active
Exercising while in pain may seem like torture, but it can help reduce ovarian stimulation and improve oestrogen production. Doctors recommend doing light exercises as working out releases endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel good and help you naturally fight the pain. If you find it physically impossible to exercise in pain, even walking for a few minutes and moving around may help.
Use heat packs/patches
Women usually apply heat patches or heat packs in the lower abdomen or pelvic region to relieve painful cramps during menstruation as heat promotes relaxation of muscles of the uterus. Similarly, warming up your pelvic area is the best way to manage the pain caused by endometriosis. One can use hot water bottles, heat packs, heat patches, or even a hot bath to increase blood flow and ease the pain.
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Sleep well at night
Resting and sleeping well at night is essential for women who have endometriosis, but unfortunately, the disease itself can act as a contributing factor to fatigue and insomnia in most women. Not getting enough sleep makes your symptoms even more severe and your tiredness from lack of sleep makes it impossible for you to handle them. If you find it difficult to sleep at night, it is recommended that you try calming activities like meditation, reading, or listening to music to improve your sleep.
Seek professional help
If you are experiencing extreme pain and other symptoms of endometriosis that have made it impossible for you to continue with your everyday life, it is critical that you seek professional help and get the treatment that you need. Taking care of your body and mind with the help of these self-care tips will also help you get through the difficult time. Moreover, sharing your feelings and thoughts with your loved ones and connecting with people going through a similar experience will help you emotionally.
If there is extreme pain, you can take analgesics on advice of your gynecologist. They help in reducing the pain to a large extent.
The article is contributed by Dr. Thejaswini J, Consultant - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Electronic City, Bangalore.