Endometriosis is a condition that happens when the type of tissue that lines the inside cavity of the uterus spills and grows on various organs and areas in the pelvis. Relatively common, endometriosis happens in 1 of every 10 women of reproductive age. The most common age group affected by this condition is women in their 30’s and 40’s since endometriosis symptoms worsen with changing estrogen levels in women during their reproductive years. The most common symptom associated with endometriosis is chronic pelvic pain, especially just before and just after a woman’s menstrual period. Heavy menstrual bleeding is also associated with endometriosis, but some women experience no symptoms.
While pelvic exams may reveal much about a woman’s likelihood of having endometriosis, the only way to diagnose the condition is through laparoscopy. During this procedure, a small incision is made in the abdomen where a tube is inserted. A laparoscope with a camera is then passed through the incision to examine the reproductive organs for the presence of this abnormal tissue. Sometimes, a biopsy is conducted during laparoscopy where a small amount of tissue is removed to be studied in a lab.
Treatment for endometriosis varies depending on the severity of the disease and whether a patient wants to have children. Medications, such as birth control pills and hormone therapy, may be used to prevent adhesions and slow the growth of endometrial tissue. Surgery can be done to remove tissue from reproductive organs and improve fertility. Surgery can also be used as a way to temporarily relieve the pain associated with endometriosis. While many women experience relief, as many as 40-80% of women experience pain again within 2 years of surgery. Ultimately, if pain is severe and does not go away after medication and surgery, the best option for relieving endometriosis symptoms is hysterectomy where adhesions are removed at the same time as the uterus.