All About Endometriosis
All About Endometriosis
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue (endometrium) that normally lines the uterus (womb) also grows outside of the uterus in places like the ovaries, the bowel and the bladder. This overgrown tissue swells during menstruation and may cause excessive bleeding and intense pelvic pain.
Endometriosis’s Most Common Symptoms
If you have endometriosis, you may be experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:
- Severe cramps and menstrual pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
Endometriosis and Infertility
Endometriosis affects millions of reproductive age women and, if undetected, can cause infertility by disfiguring the uterus. Many women assume that severe cramps and bleeding are normal and may not seek the advice of their physician. However, if undetected, the damage can be irreversible - resulting in a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus). Many of these hysterectomies are unnecessary. Early intervention and detection helps prevent hysterectomies and assists those who are suffering in silence.
Treatments Options for Endometriosis
Diagnosis by a physician is necessary to rule out a variety of underlying conditions, such as cancer and fibroids (benign tumors). Women diagnosed with endometriosis have several treatment options available to them.
- Hormone therapy regulates or blocks hormones that control the menstrual cycle. This therapy minimizes the swelling of the overgrown tissue and alleviates the pain and cramping associated with swelling. Hormone therapy may be prescribed for six months or more and the results may last for a similar period following the conclusion of therapy. Side effects include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain and headaches.
- Laparoscopic surgery involves a thin lit telescope being inserted through small abdominal incisions for the purpose of removing excess endometrial tissue. This tissue is either trimmed (excised), burned away (cauterized) or lasered. A three-to-ten day recovery period is required. Side effects are minor, since this minimally invasive surgery results in less bleeding, scarring and postoperative pain compared to other surgeries. This procedure preserves a woman’s ability to bear children.
- Laparotomy is considered invasive surgery, since a 5-6 inch abdominal incision is needed to remove large areas of endometrial tissue which cannot be accessed via a laparoscope. A three-to-five week recovery period may be required. A laparotomy will not interfere with a woman’s plans to have children.
- Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus, along with excess endometrial tissue. This procedure is recommended if endometriosis is severe within the uterus. Side effect is the loss of fertility.
- Total hysterectomy involves the removal of all reproductive organs – the uterus, ovaries and the fallopian tubes, along with the excess endometrial tissue. Considered the most comprehensive treatment for severe endometriosis, the Side effects are the loss of childbearing ability and the onset of menopausal symptoms.
All treatment options for endometriosis must be discussed with a physician. However, it is important for a woman to understand that this common disease does not have to control one’s quality of life forever.