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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month: Help is available for this challenging condition

by Dr. Robert Wool, obstetrician/gynecologist

Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of a woman’s uterus is found outside the uterus, most commonly in the abdomen on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outside of the uterus, or other organs or ligaments.

This tissue develops in the same way as the tissue inside the uterus each month: it builds up, breaks down and sheds. But unlike the tissue within the uterus, which is shed through the vagina during menstruation, there is no place for the tissue outside of the uterus to go. The result is internal bleeding, inflammation, pain, the formation of scar tissue and adhesions, infertility and bowel problems.

Women with endometriosis may experience a wide range of symptoms, including:
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Frequent yeast infections
  • Infertility or repeated miscarriages
  • Pain before and during periods that is frequently debilitating
  • Painful sex
  • Pain when urinating and having a bowel movement during your period
  • Stomach problems, including diarrhea, constipation and nausea
There is no cure for this chronic, painful disease, but help is available.

First step: diagnosis

If the symptoms above are something you regularly experience, talk to your women’s health provider. We typically perform a pelvic exam and ultrasound, and if endometriosis is suspected, we can provide a definitive diagnosis after performing an outpatient surgical procedure called a laparoscopy.

Diagnosis is important because it not only allows us to treat the pain and other symptoms associated with endometriosis, but also to be vigilant for other often-related conditions, including certain types of cancer, autoimmune disorders and allergies.

Treatment options

If you are diagnosed with endometriosis, the team of doctors and nurse-midwives at Women’s Health Associates will work with you to develop a plan to reduce the impact of the symptoms on your life. Options include:

  • Pain medication: Options include over-the-counter and prescription medications.
  • Hormonal therapy: This includes oral contraceptives and other hormone treatments aimed at stopping ovulation, and thus preventing regular menstruation.
  • Surgery: Our doctors perform minimally invasive surgery to remove the growths and relieve pain, which can sometimes allow pregnancy to occur. In severe cases of endometriosis, we may recommend a full hysterectomy, including removal of the uterus, all growths and the ovaries.
  • Lifestyle changes: We can also work with you to try a variety of lifestyle changes that may help to minimize symptoms.
We will work with you to find the treatment option or options that will work best for you.

If you need a woman’s health care provider, the doctors and nurse-midwives at Women’s Health Associates are welcoming new patients. Schedule an appointment online or call us.