Endometriosis: A common culprit of pelvic pain and infertility

Endometriosis is a real pain in the pelvis.

Pain is a hallmark of endometriosis, actually. It can make your periods hurt and it may lead to painful bowel movements or general pain in your pelvic area.

The cause of the pain is that the tissue lining your uterus migrates and implants on your ovaries, bladder, bowels, or other nearby organs. Even though it’s not where it should be, the tissue continues to act like it would inside your uterus: thickening and bleeding with each menstrual cycle. Left unchecked, it can scar your organs or bind them together.

No surprise, then, that endometriosis can lead to infertility. It affects women of child-bearing age because it’s a result of the hormones put out by your ovaries.

Endometriosis most likely is caused by retrograde menstruation — menstrual tissue getting outside the uterus, probably by flowing out the Fallopian tubes.

Recognizing the signs

Do you have endometriosis? It tends to run in families, so you’re at greater risk if your mom or sisters have it. Ask your doctor about endometriosis if you

  • Are having a hard time getting pregnant
  • Bleed excessively during periods
  • Have unexplained pelvic pain, especially during intercourse, menstruation, or bowel movements

Doctors diagnose and treat endometriosis by performing a laparoscopy — a minor surgical procedure that enables your doctor to look into your pelvic area. Laparoscopy is performed under general anesthesia but is an outpatient procedure. A pelvic exam and ultrasound are part of the exam, but it’s the laparoscopy that gives your doc a definitive way of identifying endometriosis.

Finding relief from endometriosis

If it turns out you do have endometriosis, rest assured that there are treatments.

  • Medicines can help shrink the implanted tissue. These medicines work by lowering your estrogen and so can cause menopausal symptoms.
  • If you’re trying to get pregnant, then your doctor will perform surgery through a scope to remove the implanted tissue or will laser away the implants. Surgery usually helps relieve pelvic pain and can increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
  • If you don’t intend to get pregnant again and you have severe pain, hysterectomy that also removes the ovaries is an option. A hysterectomy will put you into menopause; it’s a last resort for treatment.

Don’t wait to get relief from endometriosis. Work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing your pain or infertility and find the solution that’s right for you. And then get back to your good time.

Talk to your doctor if you think you may have endometriosis. And if you don’t already have a doctor, know that we have a team of excellent physicians who can care for you.

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