Find out how to tell if your symptoms are related to this painful condition.
Endometriosis can affect women of all ages. In fact, many women may start having the condition as early as their teens and into their reproductive years. Recent estimates show that endometriosis affects approximately 5 million women in the United States, contributing to symptoms related to pelvic pain and infertility.
How does Endometriosis Occur?
Endometriosis grows from glands that come from the lining of the uterus and implant outside of the uterus. Endometriosis can implant on the ovaries, fallopian tubes pelvis and even the appendix. In rare cases, it can also implant outside of the pelvis. In teenagers, the most common site of implantation is on the ligaments behind the uterus.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The symptoms of endometriosis are varied and, because of this, it may take seven to 10 years for a woman to be diagnosed with the condition. Women may experience chronic pelvic pain before their menstrual cycle. Other times, the pain associated with endometriosis can occur any day of the month and, in severe cases, it occurs daily. In teens, although not as common, some girls may have painful or frequent urination, diarrhea or constipation with pelvic pain. It’s important to remember that some teens have a lot of endometriosis and experience very little pain, while others may have a small amount of endometriosis and severe pain.
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
The only definitive way that you can diagnose endometriosis is through a surgery called laparoscopy. Laparoscopy uses a small camera that is inserted through the belly button and allows the doctor to take a closer look in the pelvis. Recent advances in endometriosis surgery include a special dye that can help detect lesions up to three times more than regular laparoscopy.
What Treatments are Available?
The most common treatment for endometriosis is the use of birth control pills, as they control the hormonal effect of the endometriosis on the pelvic organs. When these fail, doctors suggest a more advanced therapy with medications such as progesterone-only pills (Nor-QD® or Camilla®). A medication that may completely suppress the ovaries and halt endometriosis growth is Lupron-Depot®, which acts as GnRH agonist therapy. Ultimately, if medications don’t work, then women may need surgery to remove the lesions.
Acupuncture, herbal remedies, homeopathy and healing touch are among popular adjunct approaches to medical treatment. More recently, the Ziivaa® belt has been noted as helpful in diminishing pain syndromes associated with endometriosis.
Many of these therapies can be helpful; however, not every complementary therapy has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. Research studies are limited. Before experimenting with any alternative therapy, make sure that you are working with a licensed provider that has been referred to you.