Endometriosis -- a Women’s Health Disease with a Major Impact

Endometriosis is a women's health issue that affects 1 in 10 women or girls in the US alone, with many times more impacted globally. Characterized by the endometrial tissue migrating outside of the uterus and attaching to other organs in the lower abdomen, endometriosis often goes undiagnosed for years as its symptoms so often mimic other more benign issues. Due to its very nature, endometriosis can have a major impact on a woman’s quality of life and fertility.

Endometriosis can manifest in quite a few ways, usually showing up as abdominal pain, especially during menstruation. But it can also cause heavy periods, non-period related cramping, spotting during the menstrual cycle, as well as fatigue, bloating and even infertility. For this reason, endometriosis can often be mistaken for a gastrointestinal issue because of its recurring and cyclical pain.

The cause of endometriosis is not known, but it is more commonly seen in certain ethnicities such as African American or Latin American, as well as in women with a family history of the disease. Diagnosing endometriosis is often an arduous process and requires both a physical and gynecologic exam. Imaging scans such as an ultrasound or MRI can also help to confirm diagnosis. Lastly, a laparoscopy can also confirm the diagnosis by surgically visualizing the endometriosis in the body.

Treatment Options

Treatment of endometriosis can include a combination of medication, surgery, and lifestyle modifications. Hormone treatments such as hormonal birth control or progestin shots may be prescribed to help with acute pain caused by the endometriosis, and even reduce the size of the lesions. Surgery can be used to remove endometrial lesions that may be causing pain or that are associated with infertility. Lastly, lifestyle modifications such as diet, exercise, stress relief and reducing caffeine consumption can have a major impact on overall pain and comfort associated with endometriosis.

The Importance of Early Diagnosis

Endometriosis is a chronic condition and not curable, however early detection can greatly reduce the impact of the condition. This underscores the importance of women becoming aware of their own bodies, understanding the typical signs associated with endometriosis and seeking medical help when appropriate. Early diagnosis and treatment by a qualified gynecologist can help to reduce the pain and long-term effects of the condition.