fFor many women, their menstrual cycle is a familiar burden: mood swings, pain, discomfort. A natural “women’s ailment” that has to be endured, often played down, sometimes even a reason for teasing or encouragement to pull yourself together. But many women suffer from very severe pain during their menstrual cycle and are sometimes unable to work at all.
“The rule should not be pathologically painful,” explains Sven Becker, director of the clinic for gynecology at the university hospital. In his opinion, anyone who regularly misses one day a month should go to the gynecologist. “No man would tolerate pain once a month and say that’s part of it,” says the gynecologist and wants to encourage people not to simply accept “women’s suffering” as something natural. Because maybe endometriosis could be behind it. “Every woman should know about this disease and know where to go for treatment.” The gynecologist’s lecture on this disease, which can affect half of the population, is part of the new program of the “Health Forum” at the University Hospital in Frankfurt. The series has set itself the goal of deepening general health knowledge and enabling questions to be asked of experts in their field.
According to Becker, the statistics show how comparatively unknown endometriosis is in a frightening way: A patient suffers for an average of six to seven years and has to consult five to six doctors before someone makes the right diagnosis. The first symptom of the disease is painful menstrual bleeding. If you let it go like this for several years, the pain spreads, the symptoms then begin before the bleeding, permanent adhesions develop, and the pain can then become a constant companion. They only go away on their own with menopause.
Left undetected, endometriosis can cause significant damage
The source of the pain is growths, which are often located outside the uterus. The tissue then takes part in the cycle at a point that is not intended for this: it grows and finally bleeds off during the menstrual period. But the blood cannot drain there, inflammation occurs, adhesions and thickened tissue can develop, which cause pain. And every month anew. “If this happens unchecked for years, it can lead to considerable damage,” says Becker, describing the consequences. The non-native endometriosis can appear anywhere in the body, but in 90 percent of cases it settles near the uterus, explains Becker, often in the ovaries. And there, undetected, it can be the cause of infertility.
Science has not yet found a convincing answer as to why these misguided growths occur, says Becker. It is often more difficult to eliminate them surgically than to get their painful effects under control. A contraceptive that suppresses the menstrual period and thus makes the pain go away could already raise the suspicion of endometriosis. But only a laparoscopy, i.e. an operation under general anesthesia in a specialized clinic, can make a suspected diagnosis certain.
However, women with endometriosis who wish to have children are faced with a dilemma: they cannot become pregnant pain-free with the pill, and without the pill they may have to suffer a great deal of pain or fear long-term consequences. Then an operation could also be an option, explains Becker. “Endometriosis is a broad field, each case must be weighed individually.” Becker will also talk about the various options for treating the disease in his virtual lecture on Thursday, October 20, at 7:30 p.m. Questions can also be asked of the speakers via the chat function.