What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common, yet painful, health problem in women. The endometrium is the tissue that lines the uterus. When the endometrium grows outside of the uterus and on other areas of the body, endometriosis occurs. Most often, endometriosis is found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus, and the tissues that hold the uterus in place. Other growth sites can include the vagina, cervix, vulva, bladder, bowel, or rectum. In rare cases, endometriosis can appear in the lungs, brain, and skin.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis
- Painful menstrual cramps that get worse over time
- Intestinal pain
- Painful bowel movements
- Bleeding or spotting during periods
- Painful intercourse
- Digestive problems including diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or bloating, especially during periods
What are the causes?
The exact cause is unknown, but possible causes may include:
- Retrograde menstrual flow, where some tissue shed during a period flows through the fallopian tube into other areas of the body, such as the pelvis.
- Genetic factors, as endometriosis tends to run in families and may be inherited.
- Estrogen, which appears to promote endometriosis. Researchers are looking into whether endometriosis is a problem with the body’s hormone system.
- Immune system disorders, such as a faulty immune system that fails to locate and destroy endometrial tissue that grows outside of the uterus.
- Surgery to the abdominal area (i.e., C-sections or hysterectomies), if endometrial tissue is picked up and moved by mistake. Endometrial tissue has been found in abdominal scars.
How is it diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any symptoms related to endometriosis, talk with your doctor. A pelvic exam, ultrasounds and MRIs, and laparoscopic surgery can all detect this condition. Surgery is the only way to be certain that you have endometriosis, as your doctor is able to look inside the pelvic area to see endometriosis tissue. Often doctors can diagnose endometriosis just by examining the growths. In other cases, a small tissue sample must be studied under a microscope to confirm it.
How is endometriosis treated?
If you’re not trying to get pregnant, hormonal birth control can be used as a first step in the treatment. Hormonal treatments only work for as long as they are taken, and they are best for women who do not suffer from severe pain or symptoms. If you are trying to get pregnant, other medicines can be used. Surgery is usually reserved as a treatment for patients with severe symptoms only. During the procedure, Dr. Antonini will locate the areas of endometriosis and remove the patches.
Request an appointment in Austin, Texas
If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment at Central Texas Urogynecology & Continence Center for a diagnosis. When you come in for your appointment, you will be treated with compassion and understanding. Our goal is to make you fully aware of your overall health and wellness. If surgery is necessary, Dr. Antonini can also perform the operation. Request an appointment by filling out the form on our website, or give us a call at 512-716-0861 today.