Female health problems can be notoriously difficult to diagnose (especially those related to menstruation). Symptoms of endometriosis, PCOS, uterine fibroids, and other medical issues can overlap and be complicated by gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, and other illnesses. It’s important to know what to look for and what questions to ask your OB-GYN so you can rule out these conditions or be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that afflicts the ovaries. They can be enlarged, contain small collections of fluid (follicles), and fail to regularly release eggs (ovulation). The exact cause is unknown but research suggests certain genes might be linked to this female health problem. Low-grade inflammation associated with PCOS can lead to heart and blood vessel problems. Early diagnosis and treatment may reduce the risk of long-term complications including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Infrequent, irregular or prolonged periods
- Irregular ovulation
- Excess androgen (male hormones)
- Excess facial and body hair
- Severe acne
- Male-pattern baldness
- Polycystic ovaries
- Enlarged ovaries
- Unexplained weight gain
Endometriosis causes the tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium) to grow outside of the uterus. Endometriosis can be a challenging condition to diagnose because symptoms are similar to other conditions; including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and ovarian cysts, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can also accompany endometriosis and complicate the diagnosis.
- Pain or cramping before and during periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Heavy periods or bleeding between periods
- Pelvic, belly or lower back pain, particularly during periods
- Painful bowel movements or urination, particularly during periods
- Fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, particularly during periods
Uterine fibroids (leiomyomas or myomas) are noncancerous growths of the uterus and are not associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer. They are fairly common and often cause no symptoms. But if symptoms are present they can be influenced by location, size, and the number of fibroids. Intramural fibroids grow inside the uterine wall, submucosal fibroids project into the uterine cavity, and subserosal fibroids project outside the uterus. Fibroids range in size from seedlings that are undetectable by the human eye to bulky growths that can distend and distort the uterus. You can have a single or multiple fibroids.
- Heavy periods
- Prolonged periods
- Painful periods
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Pelvic pressure or pain that doesn’t go away
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Back or leg pain
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
Knowing the signs and symptoms of female health problems is vital for early detection and timely treatment. Don’t suffer because you think your issues are normal, or your symptoms seem general. Document your issues each month and take your concerns to your OB-GYN. And if they dismiss your claims find a doctor willing to listen and run tests!
It’s important to note that our health articles are never a replacement from a qualified health professional.
Do you have any symptoms listed above?