Suffering from endometriosis and feeling chronically tired, exhausted, and worn out? Researchers found in 2018 that women affected by endometriosis also often suffer from fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome. Fatigue is a distressing, persistent tiredness resulting from chronic illness. Typical of fatigue is that the feeling of fatigue does not improve significantly with periods of rest. It occurs suddenly and without previous exertion and affects body, mind and spirit. Researchers believe that one possible reason why endometriosis could cause chronic fatigue is that the injuries to the body tissues (lesions) can cause inflammation, which consequently activates the immune system.
Endometriosis – what is it?
Endometriosis is a common, benign, but often very painful chronic disease of women in which uterine lining occurs outside the uterine cavity. Most commonly, endometriosis occurs in the lower abdomen or pelvic cavity, often involving the ovaries. Endometriosis can be a cause of infertility in women. Since the exact cause for the development of endometriosis has not yet been clarified, there is no possibility of causal treatment or prevention to date.
How many women are affected?
Endometriosis is the second most common gynecological disease after fibroids. About 4 to 12% of all women develop the disease between puberty and menopause, about 40,000 in Germany every year. It is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 25 and 35.
What are the leading symptoms of endometriosis?
Leading symptoms are cramping pain of increasing intensity associated with the menstrual cycle, as well as chronic abdominal and back pain, chronic fatigue, and fatigue. Also described are pain during sexual intercourse, painful or difficult bowel movements, and pain during urination. Menstruation may be increased and prolonged. According to the results of a British study, patients are unable to work for an average of 45 days a year due to significant symptoms. However, women with endometriosis have significantly reduced productivity at work due to pain, even independent of the loss of work, and are also severely impaired in everyday life. Chronic pain can cause sleep problems, anxiety, depression, irritability, and impaired thinking, among other things. On the other hand, endometriosis causes little or no discomfort in about half of the patients.
Why is endometriosis often diagnosed late?
On average, 3 to 11 years pass between the first symptoms and diagnosis. In this time interval, about 50% of the women in question have seen five or more doctors! The younger the patients are at the first signs, the more time elapses before endometriosis is diagnosed.
Reasons for the delayed diagnosis are non-specific symptoms which, like menstrual cramps, are sometimes considered “normal” by girls, women, and also doctors. As a result, complaints are reported with a delay and sometimes misinterpreted by physicians, with a variety of differential diagnoses also being possible causes of complaints.
What are the main risk factors for endometriosis?
Menstruation itself is the greatest risk factor. Women with early onset of menstruation and late menopause have an increased risk of suffering from endometriosis. In addition, an increased risk is seen in women with short cycles of less than 28 days and a regular bleeding period of more than seven days. Women whose family members already have the disease also show a higher incidence of the disease. Other risk factors include late first pregnancy, uterine surgery, and obesity. However, a connection between low body mass index and body fat distribution is also discussed. Experts agree, however, that too many medical professionals still overlook the condition. A concerted effort by scientists and physicians is needed to further research this disease and finally take it seriously.
If you suspect that you suffer from endometriosis and/or fatigue, then get detailed advice from gynecologists, family doctors as well as information centers.