Endometriosis Treatment: The Diagnosis of Symptoms and How They Are Treated
Endometriosis affects about 5 million women in the United States. If you suffer from endometriosis, you may be experiencing extreme pain during your menstrual cycle or possibly even infertility.
These symptoms are caused by the lining of the uterus (endometrium) growing on other organs inside your body. These displaced endometrial cells can cause cysts, lesions and even scar tissue to form on these organs.
This extra tissue and inflammation is the reason why women who suffer from it experience large amounts of pain.
The good news is that after diagnosis, endometriosis is treatable. There are many endometriosis treatments that can help control symptoms and help women live comfortably with the disease.
Keep reading to find out more!
Signs and Symptoms
One of the first indicators that a woman might have endometriosis is painful periods.
Although tests performed by your doctor are the only sure way to diagnose endometriosis, these other symptoms may give a good indication of whether or not you have it.
Symptoms can manifest themselves through abnormal menstrual bleeding, pain during or after sex, low fertility or complete infertility, abnormal periods, and even bowel related symptoms.
Frequent urinary tract infections, lower back pain, and constant fatigue are also symptoms.
These symptoms usually subside during pregnancy and after a woman has gone through menopause.
Those with endometriosis may not experience these symptoms every month. Also, someone with severe endometriosis could experience mild symptoms while one with mild endometriosis could experience extreme symptoms.
Researchers still haven’t discovered the exact cause of endometriosis, but they do have quite a few theories on what it could be.
One is called retrograde menstruation. This is when menstrual blood doesn’t flow out of the body, but instead, it actually flows back up through the fallopian tubes and into the body cavity. These cells then stick to the organs and tissues inside the abdomen and grow, while continuing to bleed through each menstrual cycle.
Another idea is that cells in the body outside of the uterus can change and become endometrial cells. This would explain when endometrial cells are found far from the pelvic area in the arm or foot for example.
Some also believe that the body mistakenly transports endometrial cells to the wrong areas of the body or that embryonic cells transform into endometrial cells during puberty.
Embryonic cells are unspecialized early developmental cells. It’s possible that the estrogen hormone is responsible for transforming these cells outside of the uterus into endometrial cells during puberty.
The diagnosis of endometriosis can be done through several tests.
Usually, pelvic exams and ultrasounds are used to identify cysts associated with the disease. These exams won’t give a definitive diagnosis, but they allow your doctor to both see and feel abnormalities associated with endometriosis.
Your doctor may also perform an MRI where magnetic fields and radio waves are used to create detailed images of the inside of your body. MRI’s are a noninvasive way for doctors to get an idea of what your pelvic cavity looks like.
Lastly, the doctor may refer you to a surgeon to perform a laparoscopy. A Small incision is made by your navel where a laparoscope (viewing instrument) is entered into your pelvic cavity to look for endometrium.
A laparoscopy is the best way for doctors to see the severity of the disease, where its located and the size. All of these factors help determine the best treatment for the individual.
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has defined four stages of endometriosis. Minimal or Stage I is described as small amounts of patches, lesions, and inflammation around the organs.
Mild or stage II is more extensive than stage I with small amounts of scarring. Moderate or stage III is when the pelvic organs and pelvic side walls are affected with scarring.
Lastly, severe or stage IV infiltrates the organs and ovaries while causing anatomical distortions inside the body from severe tissue growth and scarring.
Whatever the severity, there are multiple ways that endometriosis can be treated to help a woman live the most comfortable life possible.
Over the counter painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium are often prescribed as a way to control painful menstrual cramps.
Hormonal therapy is often another effective way to decrease symptoms. Hormones cause the endometrium to build up, thicken and then break down, causing the menstrual cycle.
Hormonal therapy helps slow the growth of the endometrium, effectively helping to decrease pain and discomfort.
Patients have also found a lot of relief through complementary and alternative medicine (CAM.) This includes changes in exercise routine and diet, as well as treatments like acupuncture and massage.
Unfortunately, surgery can be necessary for those suffering from endometriosis. These surgeries, however, can help relieve symptoms.
Infertility is often caused because the extra tissue distorts the fallopian tubes or causes inflammation around the reproductive organs. If you are trying to get pregnant, doctors can remove the extra endometrial tissue through surgery.
The conservatively remove the tissue surrounding your organs while keeping your reproductive organs intact, to help increase chances of fertility.
Another invasive option is a complete hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is the complete removal of the uterus. This was once the most effective treatment for the disease but now more effective and less invasive treatments have been discovered.
Get Help Today
Endometriosis expresses itself through many different types of symptoms. If you suspect that you have it, contact your doctor to find out more about endometriosis treatments and diagnosis.