Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when tissue similar to that which naturally lines the uterus grows outside of it.
It is estimated that it affects 10% (190 million) of women and girls of reproductive age worldwide. Despite its high incidence, there are many myths surrounding this disease that can hinder its diagnosis and treatment.
Myth 1: Endometriosis always causes pain
TRUE: It is common for endometriosis to be associated with severe pain, especially in the pelvic area. Statistics indicate that more than 60% of women diagnosed with endometriosis report chronic pelvic pain, and that they are up to 13 times more likely to have abdominal pain compared to those without the condition.
However, a woman may receive a diagnosis of endometriosis when she is not experiencing any pain. Experts say that in some cases, a person doesn’t even know they have advanced endometriosis until they have surgery.
Myth 2: Endometriosis always causes very heavy and painful periods
TRUE: Again, we are faced with a very common symptom but not universal. Health authorities say that periods are often painful with endometriosis, although in many cases this discomfort can occur in other areas, such as the intestines.
Bleeding can also vary in volume and duration, ranging from very intense and painful, to mild and light. Therefore, it is best to speak with a health professional to find out what your situation is.
Myth 3: Endometriosis is synonymous with infertility or cancer
TRUE: Although it is estimated that between 30 and 50% of women with endometriosis experience difficulties in becoming pregnant, this condition is not synonymous with infertility.
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There are cases of patients with severe endometriosis who became pregnant, while other women with mild endometriosis did have problems. To find out if there is a possibility of getting pregnant, you should try it, always under the recommendation and supervision of a health professional.
Another common myth is that endometriosis is a condition linked to cancer, however, this relationship is not proven.
Myth 4: High Estrogen Levels Cause Endometriosis
TRUE: Estrogens are a group of hormones that play a key role in the development of physical characteristics and female reproductive functions, such as the growth of the breasts and uterus, or the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
Elevated estrogen levels have not been shown to cause endometriosis, however, estrogen-blocking medications are often used to help relieve symptoms caused by this condition.
Myth 5: Abortion causes endometriosis
TRUE: Many times it is stated that undergoing an abortion can be the cause of endometriosis, however, experts say that this is a myth that arises due to the political and social debate around this practice.
Myth 6: Endometriosis only affects the female reproductive organs
TRUE: It is common for the lesions caused by endometriosis to be found in the pelvis and lower abdomen, but this does not mean that this is the only area of the body that can be affected.
Most endometriosis does not affect the reproductive organs, but instead implants inside the abdomen on a surface called the peritoneum. It can also be found in other areas of the body, such as the vagina, cervix, vulva, intestines, bladder, rectum, and even the lungs and brain.
Myth 7: A hysterectomy cures endometriosis
TRUE: Hysterectomy is an operation to remove the uterus, although sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes may also be removed.
Although it is estimated that over 80% of women with endometriosis who undergo a hysterectomy are satisfied with the results after surgery, this does not mean that the endometriosis is cured.
In principle, because there is currently no known cure for endometriosis. Also, endometriosis may recur after surgery or symptoms may continue if there are still endometrial lesions outside the uterus.
Myth 8: Pregnancy cures endometriosis
TRUE: There is no cure for endometriosis, although this myth is often very popular because some women see improvements in symptoms during pregnancy (possibly due to changes in hormone levels). However, there are also cases in which these improvements are not only not seen, but a worsening of the symptoms is also seen.
Myth 9: Taking birth control pills cures endometriosis
TRUE: Birth control pills cannot cure endometriosis, although there have been cases where women show a reduction in symptoms due to the suppression of ovulation and menstruation.
Other medications that can help relieve endometriosis symptoms include pain relievers, such as celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), or indomethacin (Indocin).
Important: You should not take any medication to relieve the symptoms of endometriosis unless recommended by a health professional.
Myth 10: Menopause stops endometriosis
TRUE: Although it is a very old belief, menopause does not necessarily stop endometriosis. Researchers estimate that there are between 2 and 5% of women with postmenopausal endometriosis.
Until there is meaningful scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should be very careful.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, but first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, endometriosisUK.org, World Health Organization, WomenHealth.gov.