March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, in recognition of the painful condition that affects about 11% of women. Endometriosis entails uterine-like tissue growing outside of the uterus. As it swells and bleeds like uterine tissue, it causes many uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, this condition is manageable. Learn more about it below so you know when to talk to your health care provider.
What Women Should Know About Endometriosis
What are the signs of endometriosis?
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain, especially during menstrual periods. Women often experience severe menstrual cramps, as well as pain during sex and bowel movements. They may also have chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis.
Other common signs to mention to your health care provider include heavy menstrual bleeding, spotting between periods, and digestive problems like bloating and diarrhea. Endometriosis can also make it difficult to get pregnant.
What causes endometriosis?
Health care experts aren’t sure what exactly causes endometriosis. Some theories include genetics, hormones, immune disorders, and menstrual abnormalities. There's no way to prevent the condition, but you can lower your risk by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and taking birth control.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Pelvic surgery to identify tissue growth is the only way to 100% confirm endometriosis. Your health care provider may also be able to make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and a pelvic exam. Imaging tests may reveal telltale growths on the ovaries and uterus. In some cases, your response to certain medications can confirm endometriosis.
How is endometriosis treated?
Endometriosis is incurable, although symptoms often decrease after menopause. It is treatable, with methods varying based on whether you are trying to get pregnant.
Birth control is typically prescribed to women who aren’t trying to conceive. If that is ineffective, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the endometrial growths.
If you are trying to get pregnant, hormones are the first option, followed by surgery. Pain medication is also often recommended to help deal with the symptoms.
If you think you may have endometriosis, see one of the health care providers at Fairbanks Clinic, Inc. to discuss your symptoms and treatment options. Since 1932, these compassionate and experienced professionals have provided quality health care to the people of Alaska. To learn more about the practice and their services, visit them online, or call (907) 452-1761 to make an appointment.