Endometriosis is a painful gynecological condition that affects about 1 in 10 women of childbearing years. While there is no known cause of endometriosis, some factors raise a woman’s risk of developing it.
Risk factors include having a family member with the disease, having started your period before age 11, never having given birth, and having menstrual cycles that are long and heavy. The condition mainly affects women in their 30s and 40s, and it generally subsides after women reach menopause. Although there is no cure for endometriosis, there are several treatment options.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when tissue, called the endometrium, that normally lines the inside of a woman’s uterus grows outside of the uterus. It often affects your pelvic organs, including ovaries and fallopian tubes, and the outer tissues of your uterus.
This misplaced tissue thickens and sheds with your period, as it does inside the uterus. But this endometrial tissue has no place to exit your body, as the uterus lining does, so it gets trapped. As a result, cysts and scar tissue may form.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain, especially during menstruation. Pain levels vary from person to person. Some people can treat their pain with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen. Other symptoms include:
- Pain during sex
- Heavy bleeding during your period
- Bleeding between periods
- Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues
What happens if endometriosis is not treated?
Endometriosis does not resolve on its own. If you experience pain and other symptoms, these symptoms will remain unless you receive treatment. In some cases, your symptoms may get worse.
In addition to pelvic pain, infertility is another common complication of endometriosis. About half of all women with endometriosis have problems getting pregnant. Fortunately, there are many treatment options to resolve infertility and other symptoms.
Furthermore, those with endometriosis have a higher risk than those without it for developing ovarian cancer.
Treatment options for endometriosis depend on the symptoms and the severity of the condition, as well as whether you would like to get pregnant. Options include hormonal therapy, pain relief, and surgery. Additional fertility treatments to address your specific issues are also available through a fertility specialist.
For more information on endometriosis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments, call A. Michael Coppa, MD, with offices in Cranston and Smithfield, Rhode Island. You can also request an appointment online through this website.