Endometriosis is a common health problem in women, where tissue that looks and acts like the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can begin to grow on or around the ovaries, behind the uterus, on the tissues that hold the uterus in place, and on the bowels or bladder. When this happens this tissue can be called growths, tumors, implants, lesions, or nodules. This "misplaced" tissue can cause pain, infertility, and very heavy periods. There are several symptoms of endometriosis which include very painful menstrual cramps, chronic pain in the lower back, pelvic pain, intestinal pain, pain during or after intercourse, painful urination or bowel movements during menstruation, spotting or bleeding between periods, heavy or long menstrual periods, or infertility.
If you think you might have endometriosis, talk with your provider. Your provider has special training to diagnose and treat this condition. The doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and health history. Then she/he will do a pelvic exam. Sometimes during the exam, the doctor can find signs of endometriosis. However, usually doctors need to run tests such as ultrasound or an MRI to find out if a woman has endometriosis. The ultrasound uses sounds waves to see inside the body while the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses magnets and radio waves to make a picture of the inside of the body.
If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis there is no cure, however there are several treatment options. If you are having a lot of pain then you might be prescribed either an over the counter pain medication or if the pain is more severe a stronger pain reliever may be prescribed. Hormones including pills, shots, and nasal sprays may be prescribed to help with endometriosis. These different hormone treatments help slow down the growths and also help to relieve the symptoms. Lastly surgery is often a treatment for endometriosis. There are minor surgeries that can be performed or more complex surgeries. Surgery is usually chosen as the treatment when there are severe amount of growths, a great deal of pain, or fertility problems. The three types of surgeries that may be performed are laparoscopy, laparotomy, or a hysterectomy. During laparoscopy, doctors remove growths and scar tissue or destroy them with intense heat. The goal is to treat the endometriosis without harming the healthy tissue around it. This is the most minor surgery used to treat endometriosis. One that is a little more complex is laparotomy which is where the doctors make a larger cut in the abdomen which allows the doctor to reach and remove growths of endometriosis in the pelvis or abdomen. The most complex surgery for endometriosis is a hysterectomy which should only be considered if the woman does not want to become pregnant in the future. During this surgery the doctor removes the uterus and sometimes they may also remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes at the same time.
If you are diagnosed with endometriosis, it is important to talk to your gyn provider to learn to cope with the condition. Consider joining a support group to talk with other women who have endometriosis. There are support groups on the Internet and in many communities.