Disclaimer: The Instagram image featured in this article shows a woman’s bare stomach presented for the purpose of advancing discourse about endometriosis. If this type of imagery offends you, you may want to stop reading.
Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. And it’s more common than you may know.
Some sources estimate that it affects 11 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44, and is especially common among women in their 30s and 40s. But even among those who have it—an estimated 176 million women worldwide—many don’t feel comfortable talking about it.
Which is why one woman with endometriosis decided to post a very raw and candid photo of her 27-year-old body on Instagram, showing the effects of the condition.
Thessy Kouzoukas posted side-by-side profiles of her abdomen. The photo on the left shows a bulge in her belly three weeks after she had a ruptured ovarian cyst. The photo on the right is of Kouzoukas two weeks later, after she went on medication for the condition.
“The right is me now, on a drug called Synarel that has stopped all my hormones and sent me into menopause at the age of 27,” she wrote.
How Do I Know If I Have Endometriosis?
Along with bloating, one of the most common side effects of endometriosis is having to suffer through especially painful cramps before, during and after your period. Many also experience back pain, abdominal pain and even pain during bowel movements or intercourse.
On top of all that, some women experience heavier than normal periods, and even menometrorrhagia, which is bleeding in between periods. And, as if all of those symptoms weren’t enough, women who suffer from this terrible condition can also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation and nausea, which become more prevalent during periods.
The condition is often first diagnosed in women who are seeking treatment for infertility, as endometriosis can make it difficult for some women to become pregnant.
Though symptoms vary from woman to woman, most will go through similar steps in order to get the proper diagnosis. Talking with your doctor and describing the pain is typically the first step. This is followed up by a pelvic exam, an ultrasound and, if it’s severe enough, a laparoscopy, which involves a small incision and is used to view or remove areas affected by the disease.
How Is Endometriosis Treated?
Endometriosis is treated through medication, surgery or both. Most women are given either an anti-inflammatory medication or some sort of hormone therapy. These can take the form of patches, birth control pills or even vaginal rings.
But if the endometriosis is severe enough, your doctor may suggest a hysterectomy, which could be devastating to a woman who’s trying to conceive. Getting a hysterectomy triggers early-onset menopause, on top of making it impossible to get pregnant.
Kouzoukas wants other women who have endometriosis to know they don’t have to suffer alone. She also writes that she never intended to share the photos of her nude profile, but did so because of all the direct messages she received from girls who also suffer from the condition, many of whom say they feel alone.
The medicine Kouzoukas currently takes is just one of the first steps in the long process she’s about to endure to help rid herself of the pain she’s in because of the condition. She’s also preparing for surgery later this month. Doctors hope to remove her current cysts and organ adhesions. The operation is expected to take seven or more hours, and she writes that she’ll likely be recovering in the hospital for a week after the surgery.
“Endo is no joke,” she writes. Kouzoukas encourages any woman or girl who has severe menstrual pain to get checked for endometriosis.