Endometriosis Awareness takes place across the globe during the month of March with a mission to raise awareness of the disease, which occurs in about one in ten women of reproductive age. It is most often diagnosed in women in their 30s and 40s. Endometriosis can impact a woman’s quality of life if mild to severe pain exists, and if left untreated, can lead to infertility. Because of its impact, it’s important to understand the facts around endometriosis so that you can benefit from early detection and treatment.
What is Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue – tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus – begins to seep and grow outside the uterus. While endometriosis can develop anywhere in the body, these “implants” usually occur in the pelvic area and affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes, peritoneum and lymph nodes.
Normally, this tissue is expelled during menstruation, but displaced tissue outside of the uterus cannot do this. And while endometriosis implants grow and bleed like the uterine lining does during the menstrual cycle, the surrounding tissue can become irritated, inflamed, and swollen, causing mild to severe pain.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis
While some women may have endometriosis and exhibit little to no symptoms, for many women the foremost symptom of this condition is long-term chronic pelvic pain. Many women may experience this pain for years before they are finally properly diagnosed and treated.
Pain and cramping is typically most intense in the days just prior to and during your menstrual cycle. Depending on the location of the endometrial implants, endometriosis may produce pain during sexual intercourse, as well as discomfort during bowel movements or urination, and for some women, pain when sitting for long periods, or pelvic pain reflected in the lower back.
The other primary symptom of endometriosis is abnormal or excessively heavy bleeding during menstruation, often accompanied with cramping and discomfort.
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed
To determine whether you have endometriosis, your gynecologist may conduct one or more of the following:
- Pelvic pain questionnaire review
- Physical and pelvic examinations
- Ultrasound or hysterosonogram (ultrasound of the uterus)
- A minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure, which uses a Fiber-optic scope inserted through a small incision to view organs, take tissue samples, or even remove endometrial tissue.
Endometriosis and Infertility
According to studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, endometriosis is one of the top three causes of female infertility. As endometrial tissue and adhesions attach themselves to the reproductive organs, they may affect organ function, undermine the health of the sperm or ovum, or interfere with their passage through the fallopian tubes. But while about 40% of all cases of female infertility may be at least partially caused by endometriosis, there are treatment options for endometriosis patients who want to become pregnant in the future.
Treatment Options for Endometriosis
Treatment for endometriosis depends on the extent of the disease, your specific symptoms and whether or not you desire to have children. Your healthcare provider will discuss your treatment options, which may include medication, surgery or both.
- Medications or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: When pain is the primary problem, medication is usually tried first.
- Hormones: Administering hormones such as those found in birth control pills or hormone-based IUDs, may alleviate pain and help to deter the growth of endometrial tissue, preventing the formation of new implants.
- Organ Sparing Surgery: Surgery to preserve and enhance fertility, usually laparoscopic or DaVinci, removing only endometriotic tissue and leaving your reproductive organs functioning.
- Hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus or ovaries, usually laparoscopic or DaVinci, may be recommended in severe cases that do not respond to medical treatment or conservative surgery, or in older women or women who don’t wish to become pregnant at any time in the future.
About the Connecticut OBGYN Practice and More Endometriosis Awareness Information
Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is an OBGYN located in Fairfield County, Connecticut, providing care for Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Weston, Rowaytan and the surrounding areas. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.
Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s healthcare in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.
For more information on abnormal or excessive pain or uterine bleeding, or suspect that you have endometriosis, go to www.garofaloobgyn.com. John Garofalo, M.D., and Laury Berkwitt, APRN, can be reached for personal consultations by calling 203.803.1098.