Endometriosis

crampsEndometrium is the tissue that normally lines a woman’s uterus.  In endometriosis, this tissue grows in other places as well, like behind the uterus, on the fallopian tubes and ovaries, or just randomly within the pelvic cavity.  All this overgrowth of tissue can cause fertility issues for women who want to conceive.

Regardless of where the endometrial tissue is located in the body, it continues to act as if it were part of the uterus.  Each month it thickens, breaks down and bleeds.  Trapped blood in your body cavity can irritate other tissues and cause inflammation, cysts, tumors, or adhesions, scar tissue that can stick to internal organs.  This can make for very heavy and painful menstrual periods.  Depending on the degree of extra tissue growth, a woman with endometriosis may also experience sharp pain during ovulation, during sex, or even during bowel movements and may have random bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet know what causes endometriosis or how to stop it. While up to half of all women with endometriosis experience some fertility issues, most women with a mild to moderate case eventually are able to conceive.  If you think you may have endometriosis, make an appointment with your health care provider.  She can check for cysts and possible adhesions using ultrasound or MRI.  Sometimes a minor surgical procedure called laparoscopy (a scope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen) is needed to view the extent of tissue growth within the abdomen.

There is no cure, but endometriosis can be treated with pain meds and with different hormone therapies, including contraceptives, to slow the growth of tissue.  If a woman is trying to conceive, however, this approach often is not helpful.  Many women with endometriosis undergo surgery, often performed with laparoscopy, to remove growths and scar tissue.  This procedure can significantly improve the chances for conception.

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5 Responses to “Endometriosis”

  1. sandra742 Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  2. Lindsay Says:

    Thanks Sandra. Glad to have you here. Feel free to post again any time.

  3. Jeanne Says:

    Thank you for posting about Endometriosis Awareness Month. While this post is from last year, people may still come across it (as I did). So, I wanted to post a comment.

    In the post, you mentioned the following:

    “She can check for cysts and possible adhesions using ultrasound or MRI. Sometimes a minor surgical procedure called laparoscopy (a scope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen) is needed to view the extent of tissue growth within the abdomen”.

    This passage implies that endometriosis can be diagnosed by methods other than laparoscopic surgery.

    However, according to the Endometriosis Association:

    “Diagnosis is considered uncertain until proven by laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure done under anesthesia. A laparoscopy usually shows the location, size, and extent of the growths. This helps the doctor and patient make better treatment choices”.

    While large ovarian cysts/endometriomas can sometimes be visualized via ultrasound, there are many types of ovarian cysts… some of which have nothing to do with endometriosis. To date, laparoscopy is the definitive means of diagnosing endometriosis.

    During a laparoscopy, an experienced surgeon familiar with endometriosis who can properly recognize suspicious-looking tissue by sight can perform a biopsy on that tissue to confirm that it is, in fact, endometriosis.

    Many conditions can be confused with endometriosis… leading to misdiagnosis and improper medical treatment.

    It is imperative for women and girls experiencing symptoms indicative of endometriosis to seek out high quality medical care if the form of highly skilled physicians who treat a great deal of endometriosis patients.

    Thank you again for posting this endometriosis awareness article.

    I have lived with endometriosis for 28 years and I’m currently 41 years old.

    Anyone wishing to connect with fellow endometriosis patients is welcome to check out my blog on chronic conditions, Chronic Healing. This month will be very busy with Endometriosis Awareness Month 2010.

    Thank you very much!

    Jeanne

  4. Lindsay Says:

    Thanks for your great comment Jeanne. You’re right, a definitve diagnosis requires a laporoscopic look and tisse evaluation. Some doctors, however, will use ultrasound and MRI results to begin some early, noninvasive treatment plan in the hope that it will yield results. Without postive results, surgery is needed. The good news is that often a fair amount of troublesome tissue can be removed during the same investigatve procedure. But then there are times when repeat surgery may be required later on. As you well know, it’s a chronic troublesome condition.

  5. Jeanne Says:

    Hi Lindsay,

    While some doctors may use tools such as ultrasound and MRI for supplemental knowledge (i.e. an ultrasound could give a doctor a “sneak preview” as to how big an ovarian cyst might be once a laparoscopy is done), treating a woman for endometriosis without getting a diagnosis via laparoscopy can run the risk of misdiagnosis or worse. This can have serious consequences when one example of an illness that can be confused with endometriosis is ovarian cancer.

    Treating a woman with medications designed to treat endometriosis without verifying that illness really is endometriosis can be a dangerous assumption.

    A friend of mine has endometriosis. So does her mom. Then, her sister developed symptoms that she was sure were endometriosis symptoms. Her doctor insisted that he would not treat her for endo without confirming an endo diagnosis. That day, she had a PAP smear. It turns out she had cervical cancer… not endo!

    Fortunately, her astute doctor treated her cervical cancer early (she is OK) and didn’t feel pressured into prescribing her a medication to treat what she thought was endometriosis (given her family history and symptoms).

    So, while ultrasounds and MRIs have their place… it really is important for doctors to establish a correct diagnosis before prescribing a treatment.

    Surgery should not be looked at as a fall-back option. It would be fantastic if there were a non-surgical way to diagnose endometriosis. Medical science has not gotten there yet. Believe me, I wish there were a non-invasive way to diagnose endo.

    Some of the medications used to treat endometriosis might even aggravate matters if the person actually had some sort of cancer.

    It is true that endometriosis is chronic and repeat surgeries are certainly not uncommon. The good news is that there are a whole host of treatments besides the traditional “drugs and surgery” that help many endometriosis patients manage their symptoms.

    Thank you!

    Jeanne

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