By Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo
In the United States alone, endometriosis affects one in ten women
Too often, the symptoms women describe around this condition are mistaken for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Appendicitis or ovarian cysts. That is why endometriosis can sometimes take a staggering six to twelve years to diagnose.
This month, one of the many goals is to help inform everyone exactly what the symptoms are, how to best treat it and ideally, find a solution to getting the necessary care or intervention to address the long-term health issues endometriosis can cause.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is when the lining of your uterus (known as the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus most commonly on the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. The lining may also be found around the pelvis area, bowels, and the bladder. Having the endometrium in a place other than the uterus is what can frequently cause pain or menstrual like cramps. Everyone woman is different, and symptoms can vary. In some cases, 20–25% of patients don’t even have symptoms at all. Below are the most frequently described symptoms:
- Pain and/or discomfort
- Pain with urination
- Painful intercourse
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
Options to treat endometriosis
In terms of what you can do on your own at home, there are over the counter medications such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naproxen, Aleve or Advil and you can use a heating pad for the cramps. However, it’s strongly encouraged that you get formally diagnosed and treated by a doctor.
If you’re not actively trying to conceive, you can see your OB/GYN. If you are hoping to conceive either soon or sometime in the future, you may want to schedule an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE).
In order to be diagnosed, your doctor may recommend a procedure known as a laparoscopy. It can properly diagnose and even remove mild to moderate endometrium tissue.
Whichever doctor you’re seeing for your endometriosis, it’s recommended that you go in to your appointment prepared with discussing all the symptoms you have been experiencing
Ideally – you’ve been keeping track of your period (how often it comes, if the flow is heavy, if you have more pain around it) and any other notes you feel would be helpful in getting you diagnosed.
Some questions you may want to ask are
Do you think these symptoms sound like endometriosis?
How do you typically diagnose endometriosis?
Is there a way to confirm I definitely have it?
Do you suggest any medication stronger than what I can get over the counter?
Do you think I’ll need to have laparoscopy done?
Are there non-surgical approaches to try first?
Can you tell how severely my endometriosis may impact my fertility?
Are there any alternative treatments you recommend?
If you don’t think its endometriosis, what else could be causing these symptoms?
Endometriosis and fertility
When it comes to conceiving and your overall fertility, your doctor can walk you through all your options. In some cases, the laparoscopic procedure mentioned above can help. In other cases, your RE may recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF). It may even be suggested to do both a laparoscopy followed by IVF.
While some diagnosed with endometriosis may have a lower “implantation rate”, there was a study by The Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynaecology that showed this specific protocol of surgery and fertility treatment a specific time afterward may increase your chances of conceiving.
While we all hope to get the right diagnosis as soon as possible, it may take you getting one or two opinions before being accurately diagnosed and treated
You know your body best and if you sincerely feel you have endometriosis, absolutely advocate for yourself because endometriosis can be a life long condition and you deserve the very best care 24/7!
Do you suffer with endometriosis? What do you do to cope with the symptoms? We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org