Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus grows on surfaces outside the uterus. The tissue can grow on organs, the ovaries or other areas inside the pelvic and abdominal cavities. These areas often become swollen and scarred, causing pain, especially during your menstrual cycle. While endometriosis is fairly common, affecting anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of women, it is still misunderstood. The following are facts you should know about endometriosis:
Endometriosis may cause infertility but is not the only cause of infertility. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, many women with endometriosis can and do successfully get pregnant and have children. Other health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. If you are under 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for one year or more, you should talk to your doctor. This time is shortened for women over 35.
Endometriosis affects women of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic statuses. It develops during childbearing years, anytime from the first menstrual period until menopause. Symptoms frequently disappear after menopause but a few women do continue to experience pain past menopause.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain in the abdomen, pelvic area and lower back. Women with endometriosis might have very painful menstrual cramps, heavy periods, spotting between periods, intestinal pain and pain during or after sex. They may also have gastrointestinal symptoms that mimic a bowel disorder.
Diagnosing endometriosis usually includes a laparoscopy. This is when a small telescope is inserted into your abdomen through a small incision. You are given general anesthesia before this procedure. The surgery usually takes around 20 minutes and often done as outpatient surgery, meaning you are scheduled in the morning or early in the day and go home later that day. Your doctor might also request an ultrasound of your abdomen and pelvic areas.
Birth control pills are frequently used to treat endometriosis. This helps regulate your menstrual cycles and controls the symptoms of endometriosis. Some women find symptoms are very painful when they go off the pill. A hormonal coil might also help. In some cases, you might require laparoscopy surgery to remove cysts and adhesions from inside the abdomen and pelvic cavities. In severe cases, you might require an hysterectomy.
There is no "one" treatment right for everyone. Because endometriosis varies in severity and can occur at different ages, treatment should be based on your individual situation. For example, if you do not plan on having children soon, hormonal coils, which remain in place for five years. Birth control pills are also an option. Other women might find the symptoms are mild and over-the-counter pain relievers help. If you have more severe symptoms, your doctor might suggest more aggressive treatments. Treatments are often successful at managing the symptoms and it is important to work together with your doctor to find the treatment right for your situation.
The cause of endometriosis is not fully understood. While doctors know what doesn’t cause endometriosis - you don’t get it from lifestyle choices or anything you do - they do believe that your chances of developing endometriosis is higher if you have family members with the disease. You should let your doctor know if your mother, grandmother or sisters have this disease.
Treatment for endometriosis is highly successful and even those who are having difficulty conceiving can both find relief from the pain and become pregnant. If you are experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, please talk with your doctor.
"Facts About Endometriosis," Reviewed 2010, March 30, Staff Writer, Cleveland Clinic
"Facts About Endometriosis," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Illinois Department of Public Health
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.