Women with endometriosis may be happy that the condition is getting a little more recognition in recent weeks.
That’s because celebrities such as Lena Dunham and Julianne Hough have shared their personal stories of living with the disorder.
Endometriosis is a disorder that occurs when tissue normally growing in the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It can be treated with medications and surgery, but does make conception more challenging.
In addition to the celebrity notoriety, more research has rolled in on endometriosis. In fact, having endometriosis may increase the risk of bladder pain syndrome, which is also known as interstitial cystitis. A study in Neurology & Urodynamics looked at about 9,1000 women with the disorder and about 27,500 women without it. They found that the women with endometriosis had a 4.4-times higher risk of developing bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, bladder pain syndrome is a chronic condition that can cause pressure and pain in the bladder, as well as pelvic pain. (FYI, men can have it, too.)
Another recent study found that women with endometriosis have increased pain and lower tolerance, even at older ages—up to 46. Previous studies looked at pain perceptions of younger women.
Signs of Endometriosis
Endometriosis goes beyond pain—left undiagnosed and treated, it can damage your reproductive system and overall health.
Feeling the pain? Take an NSAID to see if that helps, she advised. “If it’s not relieved with Advil or Aleve and you can’t continue with your life while you have your period, that’s not normal, and you should be evaluated,” she told the Foundation.
Also, pay attention to your pain level during sexual intercourse. Discomfort there can be another red flag that you may have endometriosis.
“Women think that having pain with intercourse is normal and that actually is not true. What I’m always surprised by is, how much pain people tolerate with having sex or with their periods. They think they just have to tolerate it because they’re women, and that’s just not the case.”
Bowel changes around your period—including regular diarrhea, painful urination, bloating, and painful ovulation—can also be indicators that it is time to talk to your doctor.
Don’t feel bad if you miss the signs though, because James Kondrup, M.D., an endometriosis specialist from New York, also told the Foundation that some women can be asymptomatic for years. If your regular doctor won’t explore your reported symptoms, go directly to an endometriosis specialist, he added.