When it comes to reproductive and sexual health issues, women often find themselves getting misdiagnosed or, worse yet, not diagnosed at all. This can be due to a variety of factors such as a lack of research into these conditions, taboos surrounding discussing sexual health openly, or even fear of being judged or accused of faking it.
Regardless of the reason, any medical condition should not be ignored. If you are experiencing any symptoms that could be related to a reproductive or sexual health issue, it is important to speak with your primary doctor or gynecologist. They can help make sure you get the correct diagnosis and begin to receive the right treatment plan.
Here are three common conditions that can be difficult to diagnose in women, and what you can do to make sure you’re getting the right care.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) starts growing in other parts of the body, usually within the pelvic cavity. Then, during menstruation, these patches of tissue react the same way that it does in the uterus. But since the tissue can’t shed and exit through the vagina, it can cause pain, inflammation, abnormal growths, and scar tissue.
Endometriosis is often misdiagnosed as a digestive disorder, inflammatory disease, or even a psychological disorder, due to the similarity in symptoms to other conditions.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
● Chronic pelvic pain
● Pain during sexual activity
● Painful, heavy, or worsening periods
● Abdominal bloating or cramping
● Difficulty getting pregnant
In many cases, women with endometriosis may be unable to conceive. It is estimated that around 40% of women who experience infertility are also living with endometriosis.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects around 10-20% of women. It is characterized by the formation of many cysts in the ovaries, which can cause irregular menstrual cycles, hormone imbalances, and infertility.
The symptoms of PCOS may resemble those of other hormonal disorders and can include:
● Excessive hair growth on the body, face, or chest
● Hair loss
● Weight gain
● Irregular periods
● Depression and anxiety
Without treatment, PCOS can lead to other medical issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods. Sometimes it is a condition on its own, with no known underlying causes (primary dysmenorrhea). In other cases, it may be a symptom of an underlying condition such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease (secondary dysmenorrhea).
The symptoms of dysmenorrhea can vary from person-to-person, but usually include:
● Severe cramping or pain in the lower abdomen during menstruation
● Body aches
Although dysmenorrhea is not generally a life-threatening condition, it can be very stressful, uncomfortable, disruptive, and even debilitating in some cases. Medications can often be used to manage the symptoms and make periods more bearable.
Painful periods can be influenced by:
● Tilted uterus
● IUD birth control
● Ovarian cysts
No matter what your current situation is, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider about any reproductive or sexual health issues you may be experiencing. With the right diagnosis and treatment plan, you can get the relief you need and deserve.