Fatigue in endometriosis patients
When discussing the physical effects of endometriosis, pain is generally the main symptom doctors focus on, as they should. It’s the one thing that all women with this disease have in common in some form. But coming in a close second is the seventh symptom of endometriosis, fatigue.
It is important to note that fatigue is not a typical tired feeling due to a lack of sleep or a full day of work. Rather, endometriosis patients report feeling a constant exhaustion. Patients have described this fatigue as being “tranquilized” or having “their eyes go heavy and swollen to the point where they just felt like they cannot do anything.” This fatigue can also serve as a warning sign that a flare-up of pain is approaching.
Why does endometriosis cause fatigue?
The main cause of endometriosis-related fatigue is the body’s effort to eliminate the diseased tissue. While the immune system attempts to combat endometriosis, cytokines, also known as inflammatory toxins, are secreted by the tissue. What patients feel to be fatigue is the result of these internal chemicals.
What is the distinction between pain and fatigue in endometriosis patients?
Many women and their doctors lump fatigue together with pain, but the two are very different symptoms. Fatigue is a constant state of being tired—not sleepy, but physically exhausted. Though pain can accompany fatigue, or even be a primary cause of it, a patient does not necessarily hurt when feeling fatigue.
Why does fatigue often go unnoticed as a symptom of endometriosis?
One reason why women with endometriosis-related fatigue do not discuss this symptom is that, as is the case with other endometriosis symptoms, a stigma surrounds it. A patient is usually listened to when they state that they are in pain, however being tired may not receive the same attention. But people may consider the patient lazy or out of shape or may feel that the person has no valid reason for being so tired. The last thing one wants to hear when they are suffering fatigue due to endometriosis is that they are being lazy, or “it is all in their head.” This is why it is important to be an advocate for one’s own health. If something is wrong, women must be unafraid to speak up and voice themselves to their gynecologist.
How does endometriosis cause personality changes?
Endometriosis, specifically the pain and fatigue it causes, shapes many women’s attitudes, states of mind, and personalities. Women will find themselves having to miss out on the day-to-day activities and events that normally, not only make them happy but also provide a healthy balance in their life. Also, because the pain and fatigue are real, it affects the brain and can change its functions. It is not uncommon for patients suffering from pain and fatigue to also battle with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. These symptoms can cause a feeling of hopelessness that is unique to endometriosis patients.
Many women can also find themselves feeling like they are not allowed to have any outward signs of their pain and suffering. They may give in to the taboos and negative connotations that surround the idea of painful periods that induce constant fatigue, and in turn, may block their pain despite the distress it causes them. These are the types of patients that will continue their day to day activities, while silently, suffering throughout the day, refusing to show any weakness. However, it is important to stress how strong woman suffering from endometriosis truly are. One’s symptoms should not be pushed to the side out of a fear that they make them inferior, or worse, are not real. These symptoms of pain, fatigue, and personality changes are your body’s way of saying that something is wrong, and it is important to listen and seek proper consultation.
Having endometriosis can affect a woman’s day-to-day life, particularly during her period, and at its worst can completely change personalities. It takes an extreme toll on the body and mind. Despite this, some women express that endometriosis makes them stronger both physically and mentally, creating a new sense of empowerment.
As Lagana et al., “Anxiety and depression in patients with endometriosis: impact and management challenges.” International Journal of Women’s Health, National Institute of Health, Pubmed.gov. May 16th, 2017.https://www.endonews.com/anxiety-and-depression-in-patients-with-endometriosis