About one in 10 women develops endometriosis, a condition that occurs when a woman’s uterine lining grows outside of the uterus through her fallopian tubes and into her pelvis. The condition has received increased media attention in recent years, leading more patients to seek treatment for their symptoms. There are a variety of treatment options, from pills to injectable medications to surgery.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
While every woman’s body is different, the symptoms of endometriosis can include:
- Painful periods
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain with bowel movements or urination
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Heavy periods
- Bleeding between periods
Unfortunately, endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in younger women, who may experience irregular periods as part of the normal maturation process. I have seen patients who developed the condition during their teen years but weren’t diagnosed and treated for endometriosis until they were adults. While endometriosis can only be definitively diagnosed after surgical evaluation, these symptoms often give us a suspicion of the diagnosis. Sometimes surgery can be avoided through other options.
Treatment Options for Endometriosis
While we don’t fully understand why endometriosis develops, there are several treatment options:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium
- Combination estrogen-progestin birth control pills
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Oral or injectable medications that suppress the menstrual cycle
- Laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrial tissue
- Hysterectomy, as a last resort, once patients are completed with childbearing
It’s important to note that endometriosis often returns after treatment. If you have surgery to remove endometrial tissue, you should continue taking hormones or consider an IUD to help prevent the tissue from growing back.
I recently treated a 19-year-old woman who was unable to participate in sports each month while she was in high school because her periods were so disabling. Her previous physician had appropriately prescribed birth control pills, which helped somewhat but didn’t alleviate all of her symptoms. When she told me her story, I immediately suspected endometriosis. I discussed her treatment options, and she opted to have laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrial tissue. She continues to take birth control pills to minimize the recurrence of the condition.
Could It Be Uterine Fibroids?
There are a few other conditions that can cause abnormal bleeding and abdominal pain. A common cause of pelvic pain is uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths. If a woman still desires to become pregnant, uterine fibroids can be removed surgically. When appropriate, these procedures can be performed using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques. Depending on the size of the fibroid and its location in the uterus, some of these procedures can be performed as an outpatient, allowing women to go home the same day.
Advanced Surgical Treatments for Pelvic Pain
Surgical techniques to treat endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and other gynecologic conditions have improved greatly in recent years. Minimally invasive procedures enable patients to have shorter hospital stays, faster recoveries, and return to work and activities more quickly.
Dr. Kira Moore, DO, FACOG, is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon on staff at CentraState Medical Center. She can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.