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Women's Health

Endometriosis

NetWellness experts receive many questions about endometriosis. Over five million women in the United States have endometriosis making it one of the most common gynecological problems. Endometriosis is a disorder in which the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) spreads into other parts of the female pelvic area such as the ovaries, pelvic cavity and even the bladder. Just like when it is in the uterus, the endometrium in endometriosis swells and bleeds each month in response to hormonal changes. This can be very painful and can cause scar tissue to develop.

Symptoms

The following symptoms are commonly associated with endometriosis:

As with all health issues and concerns, feel free to talk with your healthcare provider about these symptoms. He or she may suggest that you be evaluated for endometriosis.

Diagnosis

The only way to accurately diagnose it is to have a laparoscopy (say: "lap-ah-ross-ca-pee"). This is a way of looking inside your abdomen by making a small cut in your skin and putting a small camera inside. This is often not done unless your symptoms can't be controlled medically. It can cause the implants (tissue growth) to shrink.

Treatment

If you do in fact have endometriosis, several treatments exist that can help with pain.

Anti-inflammatories: can include over the counter pain medications or much stronger prescription medications.

Hormone Therapy: can include hormonal birth control or other hormonal medications.

Birth Control: Just as these medications decrease the growth of the lining of the uterus, they also prevent the growth of endometriosis. These can be given as pills, patch, vaginal ring or injection.

Temporary Menopause: Another common method is to prevent the ovary from producing hormones by administering a medication that places them in a temporary menopause. These medications are meant to be taken up to six months during which time your period will stop. Once you stop taking hormones the condition may be less severe than it was before or may return and remain the same.

Surgery: is also an option for people who have had less success with other forms of treatment. Less invasive treatments are used to remove the implants (tissue growth) of endometriosis. The only way to cure endometriosis is surgical removal of the uterus and possibly the ovaries.

Talk to Your Provider

Endometriosis, though painful, is not normally a threat to your overall health. But because it can be very uncomfortable to live with it is important to keep your healthcare provider up to date with your health concerns so that she or he can help you to receive proper treatment.

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This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Aug 29, 2006

Thomas  A deHoop, MD Thomas A deHoop, MD
Formerly Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology
Director, Medical Student Education
No longer associated