Recognizing And Treating Endometriosis
Many women experience some pain during their monthly periods, but when that pain becomes unbearable, it may be a sign of an underlying condition. Endometriosis, which affects about five million American women, can cause menstrual cramps to be much more painful than normal. If you believe that you or a loved one could have endometriosis, here is some information that can help you learn more about the debilitating disorder.
What Is Endometriosis?
In most women, uterine tissue (also known as endometrium) lines the inside of the uterus to prepare it for a baby. Each month that a woman does not get pregnant, she sheds that uterine tissue, leading to her monthly period. Endometriosis causes uterine tissue to grow on the outside of the uterus. When this tissue tries to break down during the monthly menstrual cycle, it is trapped on the outside of the uterus and can cause cysts.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The most common sign of endometriosis is severe pelvic pain and cramping during a woman's menstrual cycle. Some women have that pain extend into the lower back.
Other possible symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Dyspareunia (pain during intercourse)
- Pain from defecation or urination, especially during the menstrual cycle
- Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding)
How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you might have endometriosis, he or she will probably start with a pelvic exam. During the exam, your doctor may be able to tell if any cysts have formed.
Next, your doctor might order an ultrasound. An ultrasound can help your doctor see more clearly whether or not you have developed cysts on your reproductive organs, which is a telltale sign of endometriosis.
If your doctor believes that you have endometriosis but isn't able to get a completely positive diagnosis, he or she may begin treating you with medications as if you have the disorder. The medications will not do much harm if you do not have endometriosis, but if they lead to symptom relief, then that is a positive sign that you do have the disorder and the treatment can be continued.
How Is Endometriosis Treated?
Endometriosis does not have any known cure yet, but it can be managed using medication and (in severe cases) surgery. Here are some of the most common treatments for the condition:
Hormone treatments, such as birth control pills, can be used to lighten the buildup of endometrium and lower menstrual pain. Some stronger hormonal treatments can even halt menstruation altogether, but they come with more side effects.
Over-the-counter pain medication is often used by endometriosis sufferers to manage pain during menstrual cycles.
Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that can be used to remove endometrium buildup around the reproductive organs. This can help to reduce pain in severe cases of endometriosis and can make conception more likely in women trying to have children.
When endometriosis is so severe that it cannot be treated through any other means, a total hysterectomy (removal of both the uterus and the cervix) might be necessary. In order to completely stop symptoms of the disorder, both ovaries must also be removed. This procedure is only used as a last-ditch effort in women who do not hope to have children.
Can Endometriosis Be Prevented?
Unfortunately, endometriosis is not a preventable disorder. It is important that you learn to recognize the signs of the disorder so that you or your loved one can begin hormonal treatment to combat it as soon as possible. The sooner you recognize endometriosis and get treatment, the less pain you will have to deal with and the less endometrium buildup your body will produce.
For more information, you can contact a local gynecologist or visit http://www.centraliowaobgyn.com.