What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis affects anywhere from 2-10% of women of reproductive age. The term derives from “endometrium,” which refers to the tissue that lines the uterus. With endometriosis, the tissue usually found only inside the uterus ends up growing in other areas of the body, such as:
- The outside of the uterus.
- Abdominal and pelvic cavities.
- Scar tissue left behind by nearby abdominal surgeries.
There are also several conditions related to endometriosis, such as endocastitis, which causes the uterus and ovaries to contract, resulting in pain in the abdomen, and other pelvic diseases like endo-pregnancy syndrome (EPS) and endocapitalism.
There is no definitive answer as to what causes endometriosis, and there are no cures for the disease. However, endometriosis can be manageable with the help of your doctor, pain management measures and, in some cases, surgical procedures.
How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
Many women first suspect they have endometriosis due to the symptoms they experience. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Painful and irregular periods, also known as dysmenorrhea.
- Heavy menstrual flow.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, nausea and constipation.
- Pelvic floor pain.
To diagnose endometriosis, your doctor will have to perform a laparoscopy, a surgical diagnostic procedure that allows examination of the abdomen, uterus and surrounding areas. During this procedure, your doctor will take a tissue sample and biopsy it to determine if there are abnormalities. Your doctor might also perform an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI to confirm your diagnosis.
When you’re diagnosed with endometriosis, your doctor will categorize your condition as Stage 1-4. Stage 1 is the most minimal form of endometriosis, and the stages continue to mild, moderate and severe by Stage 4. The stage of your endometriosis refers to the extent that the endometrial tissue has spread and affected other parts of the body. It is not, however, representative of the level of pain one feels due to the condition. Someone in stage 1 of the disease might experience more pain than someone in Stage 3 or 4.
Endometriosis and Pregnancy
Getting pregnant with endometriosis can be challenging. The condition is considered one of the leading causes of infertility, although it may be temporary if the case is mild. This is because tissue growth can occur in the fallopian tubes and cause inflammation and scarring in the area, which are barriers to the sperm and egg meeting and the embryo implanting in the uterine lining.
If you do manage to get pregnant, endometriosis can still cause issues during the pregnancy that may lead to preterm birth, complications such as placenta previa or miscarriage. Because of this, it’s vital that your OB-GYN keep a close watch on you and your baby throughout the course of your pregnancy.
Although it may pose a challenge, know that it is entirely possible to have a healthy baby while dealing with endometriosis. It just may require more planning and effort from you and your doctor.
How Do You Treat Endometriosis?
Although there are currently no cures for endometriosis, there are many treatment options available that allow those affected by the condition to live normal, happy lives. Depending on the intensity of your symptoms, overall health and desire for pregnancy, your physician may suggest any of these treatment options or even a combination of them.
With all of these treatment options, make sure you are in regular communication with your healthcare provider and ensure they are aware of any changes in your condition.
1. Pain Management
For mild cases, your doctor might simply prescribe you pain medication and pain management tips, like warm baths, exercise and meditation.
2. Hormone Therapy
Some women find that hormone therapy helps them manage their symptoms. These treatments can include oral contraceptives, which provide a few types of hormones, or specific hormones such as progestins, danazol and gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists. These hormone options help reduce ovarian hormone production and ease menstrual effects.
If your endometriosis is causing you severe symptoms or internal issues, you may need surgery. A laparotomy will allow a surgeon to remove some of the endometrium while leaving healthy tissue behind. In the most severe cases, your doctor may recommend a total hysterectomy to remove the uterus and ovaries producing the endometrial tissue.
If you’re considering surgery for your endometriosis, make sure you consult with your surgeon about what kind of future you would like and if you want to preserve fertility. This can make a significant difference in how they’ll choose to approach your condition.
Endometriosis Specialists Near You
For decades, Mile High OB/GYN has employed doctors who specialize in endometriosis. Our goal is to provide you with the health services you need in the most pain-free ways possible. If you’re in need of an endometriosis consultation, you can book an appointment today at any one of our three convenient Denver locations so that we can explore your treatment options.