Endometriosis

If you have endometriosis, you are not alone. Millions of women suffer with this painful health condition. But there are treatments that can help you feel better and improve your quality of life.

The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. In endometriosis, the endometrium grows outside the uterus in the abdomen. When this happens, it causes pain and other problems.

This extra tissue, called endometrial implant tissue, or implants, may grow on your ovaries and fallopian tubes, as well as the lining of your abdomen or belly. Implants may also grow on organs in your abdomen, such as the bladder. It can also cause scar tissue, or adhesions, to form around your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. If the scar tissue blocks the fallopian tubes, it can cause infertility. In some cases, the scar tissue can block the bowel, or the ureters, which are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder.

The cause of endometriosis is not known. It may run in families. Never giving birth can raise your risk. It’s most common in women in their 30s and 40s who haven’t gone through menopause.

Symptoms

In many women, endometriosis may not cause symptoms. The tissue may only be found if they have surgery for some other reason. Other women may have symptoms such as heavy, painful periods, or pain during sex. They may also not be able to get pregnant. If scar tissue affects the bowel or bladder, this can cause symptoms, too.

Diagnosis

If you have symptoms, your healthcare provider will give you a pelvic exam. You may also have a transvaginal ultrasound. This is done with a wand that is placed in the vagina. The wand uses ultrasonic waves to create a picture of your pelvic organs.

Your healthcare provider may recommend procedure called a laparoscopy. In this procedure, a small, telescope-like tool is put into the abdomen through a small incision. The tool lets the doctor see inside the abdomen. The doctor may also take tiny pieces of tissue to test. This is called a biopsy. In some cases, the implant can be burned or cut out at the same time as the laparoscopy.

Treatment

There are several different ways to treat endometriosis. You may be able to control pain and other symptoms by using over-the-counter medications like ibuprophen, aspirin, or naproxen.

Your provider may also choose to control the amount of estrogen in your body. Estrogen makes the implant tissue grow and cause symptoms. You may be given hormones to put your body in a state like menopause. Most women with endometriosis have relief of symptoms after menopause.

If any implants were removed during laparoscopy, you may have immediate relief of symptoms. But medication will still be needed for long-term use. This is because the implants will often grow back over time. Home treatment such as a heating pad and warm baths may help relieve some symptoms for a short time.

In rare cases, the uterus is removed to stop symptoms. This is called a hysterectomy.

Each type of treatment has its own risks and benefits. Work with your healthcare provider to find the treatment plan that works best for you.

What to Do

If you have endometriosis, take your medication exactly as directed. If your endometriosis causes pain with your periods, exercise may help. Talk with your healthcare provider about taking pain relievers. Don’t take any herbal medicine without asking your healthcare provider. Some herbal medicine can act like estrogen in the body and make your symptoms worse.

Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms don’t get better, or if they get worse. And tell your healthcare provider if you have side effects from your medication. You may be given another medication that will cause fewer problems.

Endometriosis is a common problem for many women, but it can be treated. If you have pain or other symptoms, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider about the best kinds of treatment for you.

What We Have Learned

  1. Endometriosis sometimes has no symptoms. True or false?
    The answer is True. While many women have pain during their period or during sex, others have no pain or other symptoms.
  2. Endometriosis can be diagnosed and treated at the same time during a laparoscopy. True or false?
    The answer is True. During laparoscopy, your healthcare provider can both see and remove excess tissue.
  3. Birth control pills should not be taken by women with endometriosis. True or false?
    The answer is False. Birth control pills can help treat the symptoms of endometriosis.