Uterus (womb) is lined with endometrial tissue, and the lining is called the endometrium. With each menstrual cycle, your body grows a new endometrium to prepare for a fertilized egg. Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include the following:
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Backache during periods
- Pain during sex
- Pain while passing stools
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
The leading causes of endometriosis include:
- High estrogen levels
- Problems with the immune system
- History of abdominal surgery
- Too much alcohol and caffeine consumption
No lab test, procedure, or imaging can be done to diagnose endometriosis without surgery. However, imaging studies can be helpful in looking for signs of endometriosis.
Standard diagnostic imaging exams include:
- Ultrasound: Helps to check the uterus, pelvic area, and reproductive organs
- MRI: Uses magnetic waves to check abnormalities in the internal organs
- Laparoscopy: Allows the doctor to observe the tissues inside or around the uterus and observe for the signs of endometrial tissue growth
- Biopsy: A tissue sample is collected for the test, which helps in the definitive diagnosis of endometriosis
The standard treatment options for endometriosis that do not require surgery include hormone therapy and pain management. Options include:
- Oral contraceptives with estrogen and progesterone help control hormones
- Progestins help stop menstrual periods and endometrial tissue growth
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist limits ovarian hormones
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist blocks ovarian hormones
Pain medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, is effective for managing endometriosis pain.
Surgical treatment options include:
- Laparoscopy: Patients with more advanced endometriosis pain that does not resolve with other treatments or trying to conceive would require surgery.
- Laparotomy: Unlike laparoscopy, this procedure needs a larger incision to treat the endometrial tissue
- Hysterectomy: removal of the uterus, this will stop the release of hormones and would ultimately help to deal with endometriosis
You can reduce the risk of endometriosis but cannot entirely prevent it; there could be a genetic reason that some people develop endometriosis. If other people in your family (mother or grandmother) have been diagnosed with endometriosis, talk to your provider about your risk of developing the condition.
A few factors that help reduce your risk of endometriosis are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Starting your menstrual period at a later age