Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus — the endometrium — begins to grow outside the uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves the ovaries, bowel, or the tissue lining one’s pelvis. This displaced endometrial tissue continues to behave as it normally would inside the uterus — it thickens, breaks down, and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this tissue has no way to exit the body, it becomes trapped. Ovarian cysts can form and surrounding tissue often becomes irritated, causing scar tissue and adhesions which can bind organs together.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis, or the lower back, mainly during menstrual periods. According to the U.S. government’s Office on Women’s Health, symptoms of endometriosis can include:
- Very painful menstrual cramps; pain may get worse over time
- Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis
- Pain during or after sex
- Intestinal pain
- Painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods
- Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods
- Infertility or not being able to get pregnant
- Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods
Fortunately, effective treatments are available. Treatment for endometriosis is usually done with medications or surgery. The approach you and your doctor choose will depend on the severity of your signs and symptoms and whether you hope to become pregnant. Generally, doctors recommend trying conservative treatment approaches first, opting for surgery as a last resort.
Over-the-counter pain relievers and/or supplemental hormones are sometimes effective in reducing or eliminating the pain of endometriosis. However, neither of these is a cure. If you have endometriosis and are trying to become pregnant, surgery to remove as much endometriosis as possible while preserving your uterus and ovaries (conservative surgery) may increase your chances of success. If you have severe pain from endometriosis, you may also benefit from surgery — however, endometriosis and pain may return. Discuss any and all symptoms with Dr. Strebel or Dr. Grolle to decide what’s best for you.
For more information, visit the Mayo Clinic here.