Written By: Women and Infants on May 16, 2022
Endometriosis is a common, but oftentimes painful gynecological disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. It commonly involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the ligaments that support the uterus, the lining of the pelvic cavity, and the bladder and intestines.
Everyone is different, and while some patients may experience all of the symptoms associated with endometriosis, some may only experience one or just a few. That’s why it’s important to learn about all the potential symptoms that could be negatively impacting your health.
Patients with endometriosis may experience symptoms such as painful menstrual cramps, infertility, painful urination during menstrual periods, painful bowel movements during menstrual periods, and pain during intercourse. Symptoms can also present as other gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and/or nausea.
It is estimated that approximately 2% to 10% of American women between the ages of 25 and 40 years old are affected by endometriosis.
In endometriosis, the endometrial tissue implants into the pelvis and with each period (or menstrual cycle) grow, causing scar tissue and inflammation. If the ovaries are affected, endometriomas (cysts) may form, and the surrounding tissue may become irritated. This can cause a patient pain, especially during menstrual cycles.
Another way that endometriosis negatively affects a patient’s health is by causing infertility or making it more difficult to conceive a child. In fact, it’s considered one of the three major causes of female infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, endometriosis is found in 24% to 50% of women who experience infertility. In some cases, surgery can remove any adhesions, cysts, and scar tissue, to restore fertility.
What causes endometriosis is still unknown, however, some medical experts theorize that during menstruation, some of the tissue, rather than exiting the body, backs up into the fallopian tubes, and into the abdomen, where it then attaches and grows. Research is still underway, so medical experts can find the root cause of endometriosis.
While anyone can get endometriosis, those most at risk for the condition include patients who have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with endometriosis; and women who are giving birth for the first time after the age of thirty.
Diagnosis brings relief to many patients, so it’s important if you’re experiencing symptoms that are causing you discomfort, that you see your gynecologist or other health care provider that you trust with your care, to learn if endometriosis is causing your health concerns.
The only official way to diagnose endometriosis is during surgery. However not every patient needs surgery. The most common surgery is laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure in which a laparoscope a thin tube with a camera at the end, is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision, so the doctor can see inside the pelvis. This will allow the physician to determine the location, extent, and size of the endometrial growths, remove or destroy any tissue.
Your doctor may order other imaging tests to help diagnose endometriosis. They include an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI scan. You and your physician, together, will determine the best course of action to diagnose whether or not you have endometriosis.
After you visit with your health care provider and have been diagnosed with endometriosis, there are effective treatment options for you to consider. Which option is best for you will depend upon many factors, including your overall health and medical history, current symptoms, what stage your disease is in, preference, and desire for pregnancy.
Surgical options include having a laparoscopy, to remove endometrial growths, which is a more extensive surgery to remove as much of the displaced endometrium as possible, or a hysterectomy, to remove the uterus and possibly the ovaries.
Regardless of how advanced your endometriosis may be, it’s important to have an open, honest discussion with your healthcare provider to go over your treatment options, so you can determine the best course of action to get you healthy and well again.
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