Jan Ruma's pain was getting worse, but she wrote it off as just a part of growing older and a normal side-effect of "that time of the month."
"I was increasingly having painful menstrual periods, cramping, painful abdomen and lower back pain," says Ruma, 43.
After running some tests, her doctor discovered that Ruma had endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 women, usually of childbearing age. In addition to painful menstrual periods, it can cause fertility problems, heavy bleeding, painful intercourse and appears to be associated with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and thyroid disorders.
"Endometriosis, simply put, is when the lining of the uterus, or the womb, is located where it should not be: outside of the uterus," says Dan Lebovic, M.D., M.A., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, who is exploring new treatment options for women with endometriosis.
"The quality of life in patients with endometriosis is severely compromised. We see a lot of patients whose jobs have been jeopardized because they have to stay home on account of pain, sometimes up to two weeks at a time," he notes.