Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue of the uterine lining (called the endometrium) to grow outside the uterus, usually on the uterine walls, fallopian tubes or bowel. These growths are called implants, and they occur during a woman’s childbearing years, with pain and other symptoms usually becoming worse during a woman’s periods.
Endometriosis Q & A
What symptoms does endometriosis cause?
Endometriosis can cause a range of symptoms that can vary from one woman to another, depending on the size, location, and number of implants. Some of the more common symptoms includes
- severe period pain
- painful intercourse
- abdominal and pelvic pain between periods
- abnormal vaginal bleeding, including heavy periods, irregular periods and bleeding between periods
- painful bowel movements or chronic diarrhea or constipation
- pain when urinating
- pain the lower back or leg
- problems becoming pregnant
- pain before periods begin (premenstrual syndrome or PMS)
While most women with endometriosis experience some of these symptoms and some experience severe and constant symptoms, a few women will have no symptoms at all, only learning of the condition when they have difficulty becoming pregnant.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Endometriosis can be diagnosed through diagnostic imaging tests like ultrasound or through a minimally-invasive procedure using a tiny scope to see inside the uterus. If the implants are causing bowel problems, a colonoscopy (examination of the bowel) may also be performed.
What endometriosis treatments are available?
Treatment for endometriosis depends on several factors, including the age and overall health of the patient, the severity of the symptoms and the goals of treatment (for instance, improved fertility). Treatment options include:
- hormone therapy to help control hormonal fluctuations that can exacerbate symptoms and spur implant growth
- birth control pills
- pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to control symptoms
- minimally-invasive (laparoscopic) surgery or traditional surgical techniques to remove the implants
- hysterectomy to remove the uterus when symptoms are severe and other approaches are not appropriate or ineffective in providing relief
Most women with endometriosis require ongoing care to keep symptoms under control. Each plan of treatment will be customized for the needs and goals of the patient for the best possible results.