Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows on other parts of your body. When this tissue grows in the wrong places, it can cause you to experience uncomfortable symptoms that can impact your daily life.
Causes of Endometrosis
The cause of endometriosis is unknown.
When you have endometriosis, tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows in the wrong places.
When it develops in places like the outside of your uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, intestine and within your pelvic cavity, it can cause painful symptoms.
This pain is related to increased inflammation and often fibrosis and adhesions.
When endometrial-like tissue grows outside of your uterus, it can cause scar tissue (adhesions).
These sections of scar tissue can fuse your organs creating connections between them that normally wouldn’t be there.
This can lead to discomfort and pain.
Symptoms of Endometrosis
People who do experience symptoms of endometriosis may have:
Very painful menstrual cramps.
Abdominal pain or back pain during your period or in between periods.
Pain during sex.
Heavy bleeding during periods or spotting (light bleeding) between periods.
Infertility (difficulty becoming pregnant).
Painful bowel movements.
Diagnosis of Endometrosis
In many cases, an endometriosis diagnosis will start with your symptoms.
Painful and heavy periods might cause you to reach out to your healthcare provider.
Once at an appointment, your provider may start by asking you for your personal medical history, about any previous pregnancies and if any other people in your family have endometriosis.
Your provider may do a pelvic exam.
If your healthcare provider needs more information they’ll likely perform pelvic imaging starting with an ultrasound.
Depending on your symptoms, physical exam and ultrasound results, an MRI may also be ordered for further endometriosis mapping.
A laparoscopy may be offered for both definitive diagnosis and treatment.
It can be a useful way to confirm endometriosis because your surgeon doing the procedure can use a small camera (laparoscope) to look inside your body.
A biopsy (small tissue sample) might be taken during this procedure.
The biopsy will be sent to a lab to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Endometrosis
There are multiple forms of hormonal suppression options including combination options using estrogen and progesterone or progesterone-only options.
These come in multiple forms including oral birth control pills, patch, vaginal ring, birth control shot, Nexplanon implant or IUD.
This hormonal treatment often helps people have lighter, less painful periods.
These are not options for patients attempting pregnancy.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) medications
This medication is actually used to stop the hormones that cause your menstrual cycle. This basically puts your reproductive system on hold as a way to relieve your pain. GnRH medications can be taken as an oral pill (by mouth), a shot or a nasal spray.
This is another form of hormonal medication that stops the production of the hormones that cause you to have a period. While taking this medication for endometriosis symptoms, you may have the occasional menstrual period, or they might stop entirely.⌖ diseases disorders treatments health endometriosis prevention reproductive-system