What is Endometriosis? A Patient Overview

Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) awareness is on the rise, but there are still many questions out there about what it is and how it can be treated.

Endometriosis is a condition characterized by the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) growing in locations other than the uterus (like the ovaries or the fallopian tubes).

Symptoms include:

  • Painful and/or heavy periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain during urination and/or bowel movements
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain in the abdomen, lower back or pelvic area
  • Difficulty getting pregnant

While symptoms of endometriosis are usually painful enough to propel women to schedule an appointment with their OBGYN, there are cases where the first sign comes in the form of infertility. A symptom one would only discover after trying to conceive.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms schedule a visit with your OB/GYN. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam and likely an ultrasound as well. The ultrasound is able to detect abnormalities like cysts that have grown as a result of the displaced endometrium. If endometriosis is indeed suspected, you will be referred to a surgeon for a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy. That is, the surgeon will make a small incision on your abdomen and insert a viewing device that will be able to ‘see’ the displaced tissue.

Currently we don’t know the cause of this disorder nor do we have a cure for it, but there are treatments available to help those who suffer from endometriosis cope. Those include medications, hormone therapy and surgery.

Most patients are given some sort of hormone therapy like birth control pills or a related drug. This type of therapy slows the growth and prevents new growths.

Sometimes surgery is recommended, particularly if you are trying to get pregnant. The aim of the surgery is to physically remove the growths wherever they may be found. In very severe cases of Endometriosis, it is sometimes recommended to undergo a hysterectomy (a removal of your cervix and uterus). Obviously, this treatment is a last resort!

The severity and life impact of endometriosis can vary considerably. For some, it is a manageable condition while for others it impacts their lives in a very big and negative way. For this latter group, there are numerous support groups and online forums which can be an enormous source of support, advice and information.

Please schedule a visit with your OB/GYN about these or any other health concerns you may have.