What is Endometriosis and how do I know if I have it or not?
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a pelvic disorder that occurs when the lining of the uterus travels to other parts of the pelvis and abdomen where it flourishes and grows. This can cause pelvic pain, irregular bleeding and possibly infertility.
How do I know if I have it?
The most common symptom is pelvic pain; however, women with endometriosis have also reported the following:
- Back pain
- Painful or abnormal periods
- Pain with sex
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Problems with digestion such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation or painful passage of stool
There are also some women with endometriosis that have no symptoms at all.
What should I expect at the doctor’s office?
When you see your doctor, you should tell her if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and if they are worse with your period or constant. It would also be helpful to tell her if you have any history of ovarian cancer in your family. She may also want to examine you to know where you feel your pain and make sure that you aren’t experiencing anything more serious.
How is it diagnosed?
The only way to definitely know if you have endometriosis is by direct visualization (surgery). Usually this type of procedure would be done laparoscopically; that is, your surgeon would make a small incision and use a camera to view your abdomen and pelvis.
Most experts agree, however, that it is perfectly acceptable to start non-invasive treatment without surgical confirmation. There is generally no need for imaging studies (ultrasound, x-rays etc), because they are not very helpful in this situation.
Your doctor may start you on birth control pills. If you are in severe pain, she may suggest you take pain medications such as ibuprofen or motrin.
If these measures still don’t help, you and your doctor might consider surgery. For some, surgery might be an appropriate option, because their symptoms might be severe or resistant to medication. Of the surgical options available, you might discuss with your doctor one or more of the following:
- Laparoscopic removal of endometriosis (surgical procedure) – Your surgeon would make a small incision in your abdomen and use a laser to remove or destroy the unwanted tissue.
- Removal of the uterus or ovaries – This measure is appropriate only for women with severe symptoms who are not interested in getting pregnant in the future.
At True Harmony, your provider can suggest a variety of alternative ways to help manage your symptoms and help reduce the incidence of endometriosis. We can advise supplements that promote the metabolism of estrogen to help keep these hormones in a healthy state, and support the structure and function of healthy glandular tissue.
We can also provide nutritional information which supports the female reproductive system as well as counseling regarding vitamin and herbal supplements.
Other supportive therapies offered at True Harmony include acupuncture and massage to reduce pelvic congestion and provide support to reproductive tissues.
See our website regarding use of castor oil packs to help relieve pain and inflammation associated with endometriosis.
Can I prevent it?
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on what causes endometriosis, and so we don’t know yet how to prevent it. Some say that it has some connection with altered immune status. Others say there may be a slight genetic component. Still others say that it might be caused by what is called retrograde menstruation, or abnormal anatomy that causes one’s period to “flow backward”, so to speak. Generally a good rule of thumb would be to take care of yourself, to eat, sleep and live with optimal health.
– Kristin Yamamoto and Mary Ann Shostek PA-C for the Center for True Harmony Wellness & Medicine
Schenken R, Barbieri RL et al. “Pathogenesis, clinical features and diagnosis of endometriosis.” Accessed March 6, 2013.