Endometriosis, sometimes referred to as “endo,” is a common health issue among women. Its name comes from the word endometrium, the tissue that usually lines the uterus or womb. Endometriosis occurs when tissue matching the uterine lining (the lining of the womb) spreads outside of your uterus and on other parts in your body where it doesn’t belong. Endometriosis is typically found in the lower abdomen or pelvis, but can develop anywhere in the body.
In many instances, endometriosis can turn up on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, tissues that keep the uterus in position, and the outermost surface of the uterus. Other areas for growths may include the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, or rectum. It is rare for endometriosis to show up in other sections of the body, such as the lungs, brain, and skin.
Women with endometriosis more often than not experience lower abdominal pain, pain with periods,pain during or after sex, digestive problems, pain with urination, and may even struggle with infertility. However, some women with endometriosis may not face any symptoms whatsoever.
It’s important that you speak with your obgyn if you start to notice or feel any of these symptoms.
No one knows the exact cause of this disease, but there are several theories. A few possible explanations would be:
- Issues with menstrual period flow. Retrograde menstrual flow is the most probable cause of endometriosis. Some of the tissue dispersed throughout your period flows through the fallopian tube into other areas of the body, like the pelvis.
- Genetics. Because endometriosis can sometimes be hereditary, it may be passed down in your genes.
- Immune system. A bad immune system may fail to detect and wipe out endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. Immune system disorders and ovarian cancer are more common in women with endometriosis.
- Hormones. The hormone estrogen seems to boost endometriosis.
- Surgery. When you undergo a surgery in the abdominal area, such as a C-section or hysterectomy, endometrial tissue could be picked up and moved. For example, endometrial tissue has been spotted in abdominal scars.
The major drawback of endometriosis is impaired fertility. About one-third to one-half of women with endometriosis have a hard time getting pregnant.
Infertility can happen from endometriosis creating adherences that entrap the egg close to the ovary, making it challenging for it to properly travel down the fallopian tube to be fertilized by sperm.
But don’t let this scare you! According to the Mayo Clinic, plenty of women with mild to moderate endometriosis are still able to get pregnant – it just might take more time, so be patient with your body!
There are a couple of factors that determine a woman’s treatment, including age, the severity of her symptoms, and whether the patient wants to become pregnant. Be sure to discuss your treatment options with your OB/GYN.
If you’re not looking to get pregnant, hormonal birth control is normally the first step in treatment. This may consist of:
- Extended-cycle (you only get a few periods a year) or continuous cycle (you don’t get periods) birth control. These types of hormonal contraceptives are offered in the form of a pill or a shot and help stop bleeding and diminish or get rid of pain.
- IUD to help minimize pain and bleeding. The hormonal IUD prevents pregnancy for up to seven years (how many years may vary based on which brand you choose). But the hormonal IUD might not take care of your pain and bleeding due to endometriosis for that long.
Hormonal treatment functions only as long as it’s taken and is suited for women who don’t experience severe pain or symptoms.
If you are attempting to get pregnant, your obgyn might prescribe a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist. This medicine keeps the body from developing the hormones responsible for ovulation and the growth of endometriosis. This treatment triggers a temporary menopause, but it also helps regulate the spread of endometriosis. Once you stop taking the medicine, you’ll start getting your period again, but you may have a better shot at getting pregnant.
Surgery is mainly an option for severe symptoms, when hormones aren’t doing the trick or if you’re dealing with fertility complications. During the operation, the surgeon can track down any areas of endometriosis and can take out the endometriosis patches. Following surgery, hormone treatment is commonly restarted unless you’re trying to get pregnant.
Alternative treatments you can try, by yourself or with any of the treatments previously mentioned, involve:
- Pain medicine. For mild symptoms, your OB/GYN may recommend taking over-the-counter medicines for pain, such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
- Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. Some women find alleviation from pain thanks to therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs like cinnamon twig or licorice root, or supplements, such as thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids.
If you come across symptoms of endometriosis, you’re more than welcome to sit down and chat with Dr. Ghea, a female obgyn in Fort Lauderdale. Once you speak with her, she’ll figure out the best method to diagnose and treat it based on what you’re going through and happily walk you through the process, whether it’s to help you get pregnant, or just to feel better. To schedule an appointment, give her a call at 954-473-2011, or stop by her Plantation obgyn office at Westside OB/GYN Group.