Endometriosis Q & A
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrial uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. It may adhere to several areas, including:
- Fallopian tubes
- Tissues that hold your uterus in place
- On the exterior of the uterus
In severe cases, endometrial tissue may also attach to the bowel, vulva, and cervix. In rare cases, endometrial tissue can even appear on the lungs and brain. This tissue still sheds every month just like the tissue located in your uterus but doesn’t have natural exit paths. As a result, you experience pain and irregular bleeding.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Endometriosis has a number of painful, uncomfortable symptoms. These include:
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Chronic low back and pelvic pain
- Painful intercourse, both during and after
- Painful bowel movements and urination
- Heavy menstrual bleeding and spotting between your periods
Some women with endometriosis also experience digestive distress, especially during their menstrual cycle.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Endometriosis is diagnosed by the clinical history, a pelvic exam and occasionally additional testing such as lab work and ultrasound. In some situations, a surgical approach may be indicated to evaluate the pelvic anatomy.
How is endometriosis treated?
Endometriosis symptoms can be managed. When symptoms are mild, over-the-counter suggestions such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen can be very helpful. When symptoms are more severe, and if you aren’t interested in getting pregnant, hormonal birth control and progesterone can help manage your symptoms. The pill or an intrauterine device can reduce pain and bleeding. If you are trying to get pregnant, Dr. Hagberg may offer GnRH (or gonadotropin-releasing hormones) as a solution. You take these hormones temporarily to halt the process of ovulation and slow the growth of endometriosis. When you go off the hormones, your body may be more ready to accept a pregnancy.
In severe cases of endometriosis, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery can remove the excess endometrial tissue and alleviate your symptoms.