Tissue that travels (and causes pain): Endometriosis

The lining of your uterus can be a little like household clutter — showing up where you’d least expect it.

If you have a condition called endometriosis, instead of shedding each month, the lining of your uterus (endometrium) also migrates. It might work its way to your fallopian tubes, your ovaries, or outside your uterus and even attach to your bladder, bowels or other nearby organs. And 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. That hurts, in most cases, and can interfere with fertility.

What causes endometriosis is something of a mystery, but it’s thought to be related to hormones. We know, for instance, that women in their 20s and 30s are much more likely to be affected than are women who are menopausal or perimenopausal.

One common symptom of endometriosis is pain — more painful periods, general pain in your pelvic area, pain during intercourse or during bowel movements. In some cases, women begin having pain in their backs or even in their inner thighs.

You might also want to talk to your doctor about endometriosis if you bleed very heavily during periods or if you’re having a hard time getting pregnant.

The tissue that migrates from the uterus is too small to show up during ultrasound, and so the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopy. Doctors perform laparoscopy as an outpatient procedure. You’d be under general anesthesia, and your doctor can cauterize the tissue during the procedure. This isn’t a sure end, however; endometriosis can come back after the procedure.

Other treatment methods include medicines that help shrink the tissue, usually by lowering your estrogen. If you’re trying to get pregnant, laparoscopy is probably the right treatment option for you. If you do not plan to get pregnant and have severe pain from endometriosis, a hysterectomy that also removes your ovaries is an option. However, a hysterectomy is a last-resort treatment.

Check in with your Ob/Gyn if you suspect you have endometriosis.

If you have questions about endometriosis — or any other health concern — call 317-338-4-HER to talk to a registered nurse or use this form to talk to me directly.

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