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Discovering Endometriosis Early Helps Avoid Unnecessary Complications

March 8, 2017 | By Abigail Willett, student intern with Community Outreach
Published in: Nurses Health Corner, Women

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What do painful premenstrual cycles, pain during intercourse, pain during bowel movements or urination, excessive bleeding, infertility, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, bloating, and pelvic pain all have in common? They are the common signs and symptoms of endometriosis, a condition affecting approximately 6.3 million women worldwide. Endometriosis, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), is a disorder in which the type of tissue that forms the lining of the uterus, or the endometrium, is found outside the uterus. Endometriosis occurs in 1 of every 10 women of reproductive age and is typically diagnosed between the ages of 30-40.

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There is no direct known cause of endometriosis, but there are several risk factors that have been identified by the Mayo Clinic. These risk factors include:

  • Never giving birth
  • One or more relatives with endometriosis
  • Any medical condition preventing normal passage of menstrual flow
  • History of pelvic infections
  • Uterine abnormalities

Endometriosis is not a disease that we can see by just looking at someone, so in order for a doctor to diagnose a patient with endometriosis that patient must be able to describe their symptoms, when those symptoms occur, and where those symptoms occur. There are tests, such as ultrasounds, pelvic exams, and laparoscopy, a procedure in which a surgeon makes a small cut around the belly button and uses a camera (a laparoscope) to look for endometrial tissue around the uterus and take samples of that tissue if need be. These tests can best help doctors determine what treatments will work best for individual patients. Some treatment options, according to the Endometriosis Association, include:

  • Over the counter pain medications
  • Pain relief in the form of fibromyalgia medications, such as ProSirona
  • Hormone therapies, such as oral contraceptives (birth control), and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonist, which block the production of ovarian-stimulating hormones
  • Surgery to destroy or remove growths, relieve pain, and allow for pregnancy
  • Assisted reproductive technologies to help women conceive
  • Warm baths and heating paths
  • An active lifestyle with proper nutrition

March is endometriosis awareness month, and in the spirit of being in-tune with and aware of our bodies, it is encouraged that you see your doctor if you have signs and symptoms that may point to endometriosis. Discovering the problem early may help you avoid unnecessary complications and pain. If you need resources or support in coping with endometriosis, or would like more information, please check out:

    Information provided by Abigail Willett, student intern with Community Outreach at Augusta Health. To contact Dana Breeding, RN, relating to the information in this article or with questions/comments/concerns, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.