March was endometriosis awareness month. The mission is to raise awareness of the condition which affects approximately 176 million women and an estimated 10% of women in the United States.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that forms the uterine lining, or endometrium, is found elsewhere in a woman’s body. Symptoms of the condition often correlates with the menstrual cycle, but a woman with endometriosis may also experience pain that occurs outside of her cycle. The condition is discovered most commonly in women age 30-40, but due to its relationship with the menstrual cycle, symptoms are often confused for cramps and, in many cases, is undiagnosed.
What are the symptoms?
Endometriosis causes problems because the displaced tissue, called implants, responds to changes in levels of estrogen, just like the uterine lining. The implants swell and bleed and surrounding tissue can become irritated and inflamed as a result, sometimes leaving scar tissue known as adhesions. Many women may experience no symptoms at all, but chronic pelvic pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis—particularly before and during the menstrual cycle. Some women with the condition may also experience heavy menstrual bleeding. Sufferers of endometriosis may also experience pain during sex. If it affects the bowel or bladder, pain during bowel movements or during urination may also occur.
How do I get tested for it?
A simple test for endometriosis does not yet exist. Your healthcare provider may first conduct a pelvic exam, but the presence of the condition can only be confirmed via a surgical procedure, called laparoscopy. Sometimes the surgeon may remove a small amount of tissue for biopsy.
How is it treated?
Treatment for endometriosis depends largely its severity. Endometriosis can be treated with medication, surgery, or a combination of the two depending on the symptoms and whether the woman wishes to conceive in the future. If pain is the primary issue, your health provider will most likely try medication first. During surgery, endometriosis implants are removed. Most women experience relief following surgery, but 40-80% of affected women experience recurring pain in as little as two years.
What causes endometriosis?
There are many theories regarding the cause of endometriosis, but they have yet to be proven, so the cause of the condition remains unknown. Scientists researching endometriosis all agree, however, that the condition is affected by estrogen. Because of this, most current medical treatments attempt to temper estrogen production to provide relief.
If you have any questions about endometriosis or suspect you may have the condition, contact our office or your primary care physician for more information.