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Understanding how endometriosis affects your health and future pregnancy.
What is the deal with painful periods? Some people suffer every month while others never experience cramps. The most common cause of painful periods (dysmenorrhea) is endometriosis.
Endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus where it does not belong. It causes painful periods and affects more than 11% of American women. It is especially common among women age 25–35, and may impact ones ability to get pregnant. Several different treatment options can help manage the symptoms, improve your life, reduce pain, and improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Endometriosis, sometimes called “endo,” is a common gynecologic health problem. It gets its name from the word endometrium, the tissue present in the lining of the uterus or womb. For women with endometriosis, this tissue begins growing outside of the uterus and on other areas in the body where it doesn’t belong.
Most often, endometriosis is found on the:
Endometriosis implants may also be found in the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, or rectum. Rarely, endometriosis appears in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, and skin.
Symptoms of endometriosis can include:
Endometriosis growths are benign (not cancerous), but they can still cause troublesome problems.
Remember, endometriosis implants occur when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus begins to grow outside of your uterus where it doesn’t belong. Endometriosis growths may swell and bleed in the same way the lining inside of the uterus does every month during menstrual cycles. This process causes swelling, pain, and scar tissue because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body.
The endometriosis implants may also continue to expand causing problems such as:
Endometriosis is a common health problem for women affecting approximately 11% of women, or more than 6 ½ million women in the United States, have endometriosis. The exact number is unknown as many women who have endometriosis suffer no symptoms at all. Obgyns often discover endometriosis during routine surgeries such as tubal ligations.
Endometriosis can happen to any woman who has menstrual periods, but it is more common in women 25–35 years old. Occasionally, we find endometriosis in young girls before they begin having periods which is called premenarcheal endometriosis.
You might be more likely to get endometriosis if you have:
No one knows for sure what causes this disease. Researchers are studying possible causes:
You can’t prevent endometriosis. But you can reduce your chances of developing it by lowering the levels of the hormone estrogen in your body. Estrogen helps to thicken the lining of your uterus during your menstrual cycle.
To keep lower estrogen levels in your body, you can:
If you have symptoms of endometriosis, talk with your doctor. The doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and do or prescribe one or more of the following to find out if you have endometriosis:
There is no cure for endometriosis, but treatments are available for the symptoms and problems it causes. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.
If you are not trying to get pregnant, hormonal birth control is generally the first step in treatment. This may include:
The hormonal treatment works only as long as it is taken, and is best for women who do not have severe pain or symptoms.
Elagorix (brand named Orilissa) is a new medication indicated for endometriosis. It works by interacting with the hormones LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) to reduce the amount of circulating Estrogen. This medication is highly effective at reducing moderate to severe pain associated with endometriosis
If you are trying to get pregnant, your doctor may prescribe a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist. This medicine stops the body from making the hormones responsible for ovulation, the menstrual cycle, and the growth of endometriosis. This treatment causes a temporary menopause, but it also helps control the growth of endometriosis. Once you stop taking the medicine, your menstrual cycle returns, but you may have a better chance of getting pregnant.
Surgery is usually chosen for severe symptoms, when hormones are not providing relief or if you are having fertility problems. During the operation, the surgeon can locate any areas of endometriosis and may burn, destroy, or remove the endometriosis implants. The surgeon may also test to see if the fallopian tubes are open (chromotubation). After surgery, hormone treatment is often restarted unless you are trying to get pregnant.
Other treatments you can try, alone or with any of the treatments listed above, include:
For some women, the painful symptoms of endometriosis improve after menopause. As the body stops making the hormone estrogen, the growths shrink slowly. However, some women who take menopausal hormone therapy may still have symptoms of endometriosis.
If you are having symptoms of endometriosis after menopause, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Yes. Many women with endometriosis get pregnant. But, you may find it harder to get pregnant. Researchers think endometriosis may affect as many as one in every two women with infertility.
No one knows exactly how endometriosis might cause infertility. Some possible reasons include:
If you have endometriosis and are having trouble getting pregnant, talk to your doctor. He or she can recommend treatments, such as surgery to remove the endometrial growths.
Research shows a link between endometriosis and other health problems in women and their families. Some of these include:
Thank you to BeingWell for publishing this article on Medium.
Article Originally published at https://medika.life on July 9, 2020.
Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingston
Main Blog Photo by: Anthony Tran on Unsplash
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