Half the world’s population experiences periods about once a month and are typically subjected to menstrual bleeding, cramps, and the occasional pelvic pain. But what if this pain prevents you from going to work, school, or even just standing to shower?
Excruciating periods are not regular, and if you or someone you know is experiencing extreme pain during their period, speak with a doctor immediately. There are many reasons why someone’s period may be painful or difficult-- endometriosis is just one of those reasons.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the body produces its uterine lining both inside and outside the uterus. The disorder itself typically involves the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, but tissue may grow around other organs as well. When the uterine lining sheds during someone’s period, the lining outside the uterus sheds as well. Common symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, pain during intercourse, pain while going to the bathroom, excessive bleeding during periods, and infertility. Other symptoms commonly attributed to endometriosis include severe headaches, nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and pelvic pain during periods.
Endometriosis can best be described in stages, and the most well-known and often used is a four-stage diagnosis guide developed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The ASRM’s guide separates endometriosis stages by the number of lesions and how deep they grow into the patient’s uterus and other affected organs. In addition to stages, this classification also uses a points system to identify how many lesions someone may have.
Stage one endometriosis uses points 1-5 on the scale. It is classified by minimal lesions, and these lesions are relatively shallow.
Stage two uses points 6-15 and is considered mild. There are more lesions than stage one at this stage, and they are a bit deeper as well.
Stage three endometriosis (numbers 16-40) is considered moderate. In this stage, there are more lesions than the previous stages, and they are much deeper as well. During this stage, patients may also have cysts on the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and a filmy adhesion around the uterus.
Considered the most severe stage of endometriosis, stage four includes any value over 40. This stage is classified by its large number of deep tissue growth, dense adhesions around the uterus and ovaries, and large cysts that may form around them.
These classifications do not necessarily correlate to the amount of pain someone experiences while living with endometriosis.
Treatments for endometriosis vary depending on the condition’s severity and how much pain a patient may experience. One of the most common treatments for endometriosis, however, is hormone therapy. Contraceptives like birth control or hormone supplements may help prevent cysts from forming and regulate period symptoms in some patients. Other times, surgery may be more beneficial. Hysterectomies (the removal of the uterus and ovaries) and laparoscopic surgery are common treatments.
In terms of pain relief, over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, Advil, and other NSAIDs may help with cramps and pain from other symptoms. In addition, heat therapy in the form of heating pads or electrostimulation in the form of TENS units may help reduce pain. Doctors may also prescribe pain medications, hormones or suggest other treatments before moving to surgery, since the processes are somewhat invasive and take a long time to heal.
As always, it is vital to speak with your primary care physician if you are experiencing severe pain during periods. To browse pain management resources that can help reduce cramps and pelvic pain, visit the Medical Supply Depot.