By Dr. Katherine Bolt, OB/GYN Physician
It is common for women to suffer from pelvic pain at some point in their lives. There are many causes for this; but for those diagnosed with endometriosis the pain can be debilitating. March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, an event created to increase awareness and education about this painful disorder plaguing an estimated 176 million across the globe.
Endometriosis gets its name from the word endometrium, which is the tissue that normally lines the uterus or womb. Endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of your uterus and on other areas of the body where it does not belong. Those areas can include the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the exterior of the uterus. In some cases, it can appear in the cervix, bladder, rectum or even lungs.
It is unknown what exactly causes endometriosis and unfortunately, there is no cure. The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- lower abdominal or pelvic pain, especially during menstruation
- pain during sexual intercourse
- changes in bowel and bladder symptoms (such as pain with bowel movements, bloating, constipation, blood in the urine, or pain with urination)
- abnormal vaginal bleeding
Physicians can diagnose endometriosis based of symptoms but a definitive diagnosis requires laparoscopy (a surgery with general anesthesia in which a doctor looks inside the abdomen with a camera, usually through the belly button). A biopsy from a suspected endometriosis lesion at the time of surgery can help confirm a diagnosis.
How endometriosis is treated depends on the extent of the disease, symptoms and fertility goals. Once a diagnosis is made, doctors will work with patients to create a symptom management plan. Treatment plans can include: prescription pain medication, hormonal treatments (like oral contraceptives) to prevent endometrial tissue from returning, or surgery to remove any tissue overgrowth.
The long-term outlook for patients with endometriosis will vary by age, symptoms and treatment. Some patients experience relief as soon as they start treatment. For others, symptoms never go away. It is important to note that menopause can bring about a reduction in symptoms since the hormonal influence of the out-of-place uterine lining is no longer there.
If you are suffering from endometriosis or any kind of pelvic pain, your Legacy OB/GYN provider can help you determine the right treatment for you. Visit our website or call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.