Endometriosis is a disorder that causes the uterus lining, called the endometrium, to grow outside of the uterus.
The tissue may grow on ovaries, the other layer of the uterus, the intensines, and the pelvic side wall. Even though the tissue is not inside the uterine cavity, it is still affected by the menstrual cycle and hormones. It grows thick, hardens, and breaks down, but unlike normal endometrial tissues, it does not have a way to exit the body. As a result, it can cause pain, scar tissue, and possibly lead to fertility problems.
Making a Diagnosis
Endometriosis is categorized into four stages: minimal, mild, moderate and severe. Your doctor will make this diagnosis based on the location, number, and size of the endometrial lesions. While your symptoms may include pain ranging from mild to severe, it is not necessarily an indication of the extent of your condition.
To make a diagnosis of endometriosis, your doctor will have you take a clinical medical history and history profile, as well as a physical examination. An abdominal or trans-vaginal ultrasound may help by showing images, but the most reliable way to determine if you suffer from the disorder is to perform laparoscopic surgery. The tissue can then be seen clearly, and samples will be removed for a biopsy as well as potential treatment.
Deciding on a Course of Treatment
Once it has been determined that you suffer from endometriosis, you will be presented with multiple treatment options designed to address your symptoms. There is no cure for endometriosis, but treatments are designed to relieve pain, stop the spread of tissue growth and assist in fertility. Your doctor will take your age and the severity of your condition into account before making a treatment recommendation.
If your pain is mild, the only medication you may need is an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen. Anti-inflammatories can help reduce swelling, which may be the source of some of the discomfort associated with endometriosis.
Birth Control Can Reduce Symptoms
The hormones found in regular birth control pills, including estrogen, progestin and progesterone, can suppress endometriosis as well. Your health care provider may recommend the pill, the patch, an injection, vaginal ring or IUD as an effective way of reducing menstrual pain and keeping lesions at bay.
Other types of Hormone Therapy Can Help
Taking hormones that prevent ovulation and menstruation can effectively reduce your pain and discomfort. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists can be administered in the form of a nasal spray or injection and prompt the body to enter a menopausal state. Another hormone option, Danazol, blocks menstrual cycle hormones and can reduce the frequency of periods.
Surgery May Be Recommended
For women whose fertility is compromised by endometriosis, surgery may be the only option.
Your health care provider can attempt to remove endometrial growths while keeping your reproductive organs safe. Laparoscopic surgery can be an effective way to remove some scar tissue, or open surgery may be required, depending on the stage of your condition. Of course, if you do not wish to become pregnant and have not responded well to other forms of treatment, a hysterectomy is also an option.
The providers at Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center can help guide you in the process of deciding how to treat endometriosis and address problematic symptoms so you can live a full, happy life free of pain and discomfort.
This article reviewed by Dr. Dyanne Tappin.