What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the endometrium -- the innermost layer of the uterine lining -- grows outside of the uterus.
This uterine tissue growing outside the uterus is called endometrial implants. It can grow on organs in the pelvis and the outer layer of the uterus.
Endometriosis can make becoming pregnant difficult, and even lead to infertility.
There are four stages of endometriosis that range from mild to severe. These stages depend on the location and size of the endometrial implant, if they're growing on other organs, and if the ovaries are involved.
Although 3-18% of women have endometriosis, many women are unaware that they have it because symptoms can be minimal or nonexistent. Sometimes the only symptom of endometriosis is infertility.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
As endometrial linings grow outside the uterus, they can irritate the pelvis. This irritation can lead to inflammation, causing abnormal bleeding and pain. Additional symptoms include:
- Pain in the lower back, leg, or thigh
- Severe menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Pain while urinating or defecating
- Diarrhea, constipation, or bleeding from the bowel
- Infertility or difficulty conceiving
Symptoms are often worse around or during menstruation but can occur at any time. Pain can vary in severity from minimal to chronic.
Endometriosis doesn't guarantee infertility, but it can make becoming pregnancy difficult. Endometriosis can also lead to infertility.
How is endometriosis diagnosed and treated?
To reach a diagnosis, Dr. Jones might perform a variety of tests, including a pelvic exam, colonoscopy, ultrasound, or laparoscopy. Your treatment depends on several factors such as the extent and severity of your endometrial implants, your age, and your desire to have children.
Various treatments are available for endometriosis, including:
- Hormone therapy: reduces the size of endometrial implants or relieves side effects
- Medications: reduce pain or reduce endometrial implants
- Hysterectomy: removing the uterus and possibly the ovaries
- Laparotomy: surgical removal of endometrial implants
- Laparoscopic surgery: to preserve the uterus and ovaries
Dr. Jones takes a "total woman" approach to gynecological care. She might recommend lifestyle changes including diet and exercise to ease your symptoms, as well as non-hormonal treatments to reduce inflammation and pain depending on your symptoms.
Call Total Women's Care or schedule an appointment online to learn more about endometriosis diagnosis and treatment options.