Endometriosis got much needed publicity when two Dancing With the Stars pros, Julianne Hough and Lacey Schwimmer, announced they were diagnosed with it.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects some 5 million women, including Julianne, who had surgery for the condition, and Lacey, who is reportedly on medication for the problem.
What is endometriosis and what are the forms of endometriosis treatment? And can you catch it?
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus and it's shed each month during your period, explains Serdar Bulun, MD, a board certified endocrinologist and fertility specialist and Professor of Clinical Gynecology at Northwestern University. Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus often on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and even in your intestinal tract. As with the uterine lining, the tissue builds up, breaks down, and bleeds in sync with your monthly cycle. But because the blood has nowhere to go, it can damage the surrounding tissues and overtime cause scarring.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Symptoms of endometriosis can include extreme abdominal and/or lower back pain, digestive problems, and in some cases infertility. Menstrual bleeding and cramps are often heavier and more severe in women with endometriosis.
The fact that both Julianne and Lacey learned they had the same condition at same time seems odd, but it's purely coincidence. While no one knows what causes endometriosis, it's fairly common in young women and not contagious. It can also occur in varying degrees of severity.
Julianne's case was more advanced; she needed surgery to remove an ovarian cyst and her appendix (because it had been affected by the disease). "Having to undergo an appendectomy for this reason is rare," Bulun says. "It's necessary in fewer than 5 percent of cases."
And before any type of surgery, most doctors advise trying more conservative endometriosis treatment. If you aren't looking to get pregnant, birth control pills taken continually (you skip the placebo pill week) can ease your symptoms, simply because you stop the hormonal fluctuations that affect the endometrial tissue. It's also important for women to realize that while endometriosis can't be cured, it can be managed. In fact, neither Julianne or Lacey plan to let the condition slow them down. Julianne's surgery went well, and she's home recovering, according to her official website. They both hope to be cha-cha-cha-ing back onto the floor soon.