Endometriosis can often be a very misunderstood and wildly misdiagnosed medical condition. Roughly, 1 in 10 girls and women in America and over 176 million worldwide are affected by endometriosis. In cases of endometriosis, similar tissue to the endometrial lining (uterine lining) is discovered outside of various areas of the body, mostly in the pelvic cavity. It can commonly attach to reproductive organs including the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and pelvic wall. Endometriosis can also affect other organs such as the rectum, bowel, bladder, intestines and appendix although this is less uncommon.

Endometriosis ImageAbout 40% of patients with endometriosis will experience some varying degree of infertility. The primary cause of infertility resulting from endometriosis is usually a blockage caused by scarring and adhesions in the fallopian tubes. These adhesions can prevent the egg and sperm from meeting or prevent the fertilized egg from moving down the tube normally (resulting in an ectopic pregnancy).

Some researchers believe that endometriosis can cause a luteal phase defect, which results from low levels of the hormone progesterone or a poor build-up of the uterine lining after ovulation.

Are there any symptoms?

Yes. Girls and women with endometriosis often, but not always, may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Incredibly painful cramps during menstruation (dysmenorrhea)
  • Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Painful urination (dysuria)
  • Excessively long periods, heavy periods or unusual spotting
  • Infertility

Testing

Although there are no direct testing methods that confirm endometriosis other than a laparoscopy in combination with a pathology biopsy. This is the only definitive way to confirm endometriosis.

Treatment

This can vary as there are treatment methods for symptom management and in the case of women who want to conceive, fertility treatment. For women who are trying to become pregnant, once endometriosis has been definitely confirmed by a specialist, they may recommend surgical treatment such as unblocking the tubes and removing any adhesions on the reproductive organs that may affect the process of conception, fertilization and movement of the fertilized eggs in the fallopian tubes. In women who are not ready to become pregnant just yet are encouraged take low-dose oral contraceptives to help prevent endometriosis by slow the process of reoccurring. Stronger medications, such as leuprolide (Lurpon) acetate, are effective to treat pain, but not infertility, related to endometriosis.

Do I have endometriosis?

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I have painful periods?
  • Do I have back pain or pelvic pain during my period that is only relieved by non-steroidal anti-inflammatories/NSAIDS like Motrin, Advil, etc., and not by aspirin alone?
  • Is intercourse painful in certain positions or with deep penetration?
  • Does anyone in my family have a history of endometriosis, i.e.,  mother, grandmother or sisters
  • Am I experiencing any bowel or bladder symptoms (constipation, diarrhea or frequent urination) around the time of ovulation or just before I start your period?